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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 16, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Traveling to Copenhagen / Will Attend Events for Leaders in Advance of President's Arrival / Will Have Bilateral Meetings / Focus Will Be Need for Strong Action Internationally to Face Challenge
    • No Plans for Engagement on Iran with P-5+1 While in Copenhagen
  • CUBA
    • Signatory to Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs / Requires Timely Access to Consular Officers to Ensure Humane Treatment in Accordance with Local Law / Requested Consular Access Via Diplomatic Note Three Times / Expect Cuba to Live Up to Obligations Under the Vienna Convention / Interests Section in Contact with Cuban Government
    • Detained Americans Transferred to Lahore / Requested Consular Access at New Facility / No Objections to Treatment of Detained Americans
    • Have Seen Reports of Pakistan Supreme Court Decision
  • IRAN
    • Aware of Reports of Missile Tests / Undermine Iran's Claims of Peaceful Intentions / Increase Seriousness and Resolve of International Community in Efforts to Hold Iran Accountable
    • Don't Discuss Intelligence Issues / Many Reasons to Have Concerns about Iran's Nuclear Program / Need for International Community to Get Them to Open Up Program
    • Recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Nauru Does Not Underpin Legitimacy of De Facto Governments in Separatist Regions / U.S. and Vast Majority of Countries Support Territorial Integrity of Georgia / Call on All Countries to Support Georgia's Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty
    • In Close Consultation with Hamid Karzai and Advisors as They Form New Government / Important Next Step in Afghanistan's Democratic Development / Delay Not Indicative of Problem / Want to Make Sure They Have Effective Government with Support of Afghan People
    • Welcome Decision by Authorities to Allow Aung San Suu Kyi to Meet With Members of Her Party / Hope It Is a Step Toward Meeting with Entire Central Executive Committee of National League for Democracy / Urge Burmese Government to Engage Democratic Opposition and Other Stakeholders in Genuine Dialogue
    • Next Round of Talks Not Scheduled / Continuing Engagement on Embassy Level
    • Access to American Citizen Arrested in Burma
    • Not Aware of U.S. Law Enforcement Involvement / Applaud Thailand for Swift Action and Referral to UN Sanctions Committee
    • Confirm a Letter Was Delivered to North Korean Government / For White House to Discuss Contents of Letter from the President / Open and Transparent to Extent that It Advances U.S. Interests


1:05 p.m. EST

MR. KELLY: Okay. Welcome to part two, welcome to the briefing room. The Secretary, I think as you all know, is traveling to Copenhagen today. She and the President decided that she could play a useful role in helping close gaps in the – our climate talks there by traveling to Copenhagen and personally participating.

Tomorrow, she will also attend some of the events that are intended for leaders, such as the gala dinner tomorrow night. And this is – she would attend these events in advance of the President, who arrives Friday morning, of course. She will have a number of bilateral meetings. These meetings are still being worked out and we hope to have more information about those meetings tomorrow.

And with that, I’ll take your questions. Jill.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you, Ian. On the situation with the Cuban – the person being held in Cuba, what is the latest on getting consular access? Because it seems kind of odd that this is going on for quite a while.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it actually international law that he should – that he is supposed to absolutely get – the U.S. can actually get access to him? Are the Cubans breaking international law or what --

MR. KELLY: Well, again, I always get a little shaky when we start talking about legal issues because I’m not a lawyer. However, there is the Vienna Convention on consular affairs, and I believe Cuba has signed up to that convention. And under that convention, the state that is holding a citizen of another state is required to give timely access to consular officers to visit the individual and ensure, as I’ve said from this podium before, that they are being treated humanely and in accordance with local law.

In the case of this American citizen in Cuba, we requested access via diplomatic note at least three times – December 8, 11, and then again on December 12. And we expect that Cuba will live up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention and permit consular access, but unfortunately, this has not happened.

QUESTION: But are they saying – are they responding to that note? Are they saying no, you cannot, or are they just not responding? What’s the state of play?

MR. KELLY: Well, we do have an interests section down there. We do talk to the Cuban Government. We – as I noted, we have made multiple requests to see this individual. I think, as we mentioned before, the Cuban Government did inform us that they had detained this individual on December 5th, but I’m – I just – we’re just waiting for them to respond to this request for access, and they haven’t responded.

QUESTION: So it’s only been in written form. Is there any other way that --

MR. KELLY: Oh, I’m sure it’s been in more than written form. I’m sure it’s been followed up by many phone calls.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on this issue?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, Michele.

QUESTION: The – has USAID encouraged its contractors and subcontractors who go down to Cuba to defer travel until – while this man is arrested?

MR. KELLY: I am not – I don’t know the answer to that question. Let me see if there has been such an announcement.

Yeah. Charlie.

QUESTION: Has anyone from Washington talked to anyone in Cuba, aside from the contact in the interests section? We know there have been other contact --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- contacts on other issues, but --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t think so, so let’s let that stand and we’ll let you know if that’s not right.

QUESTION: You’ll check and take that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We’ll check if – and we’ll get back to you if that’s not right, that somebody from Washington has contacted them.

QUESTION: Can we go to other Americans detained abroad?


QUESTION: Pakistan, what’s the situation there?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have much to update you on except to say that I believe that they’ve been transferred to Lahore – to a new facility in Lahore. We have – and I think that just happened a day or two ago. And because they have been transferred to a new facility, we have asked for consular access to see them in the new facility, but I don’t have any other information to share on that.

QUESTION: So when was the last time that they actually had a visit?

MR. KELLY: That would have been on December 11th, on Friday.

QUESTION: Do you know why they’ve been transferred?

MR. KELLY: Jill, I don’t know the exact reason why, except I know – as I think you’ve seen the press reports that a court in Lahore asked to review their case before any action was taken by Pakistani law enforcement authorities, such as deportation.

QUESTION: And this is okay with you?

MR. KELLY: It’s okay with us to --

QUESTION: With us – with the U.S.?

MR. KELLY: -- for them to be transferred to Lahore?

QUESTION: Well, for them – the whole situation. You haven’t had access to – it’s now Wednesday. You didn’t have –

MR. KELLY: Yeah, but that’s not unusual. I mean, we got access within 24 hours --

QUESTION: Well, Pakistan –

MR. KELLY: -- when they first were detained.

QUESTION: Yeah, but Pakistan --

MR. KELLY: There will be no reason for us to see them every day. I mean, this is fairly standard for us to not ask for additional access --

QUESTION: It’s not –

MR. KELLY: -- unless the conditions had changed, whether their health had changed or their legal situation had changed.


MR. KELLY: And it hasn’t.

QUESTION: Well, you just said the conditions have changed, though, because –

MR. KELLY: Yes. We have asked to see them in Lahore, and I’m sure we will. But just to my knowledge, it hasn’t happened.

QUESTION: And are you satisfied with the way they’ve been treated?

MR. KELLY: To the best of my knowledge, we have no objections to the way that they’ve been treated.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the missile launch, the Iranian missile launch?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, just a moment. Yes, of course we’re aware of these reports at a time when the international community has offered Iran opportunities to begin to build trust and confidence. These kinds of tests can only undermine Iran’s claims of peaceful intentions. I think that these kinds of actions will only increase the seriousness and resolve of the international community in our efforts to hold Iran accountable for its continued defiance of international obligations on its nuclear program.

Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: In Copenhagen, does the Secretary have any plans to meet with any of her counterparts in the P-5+1?

MR. KELLY: I think her – I mean, her focus, really, in Copenhagen is going to be the business at hand in Copenhagen, the need for strong action internationally to face this challenge. If she does have meetings with her – with members of the P-5+1, the agenda is going to be Copenhagen. As far as I know, there’s no plans for her to engage on this issue. Of course, if she meets with one of her foreign minister colleagues, I’m sure she’ll discuss other issues on our agenda as well, including Iran, but that won’t be the focus of the meeting.


QUESTION: Would you care to go further than your colleague P.J. would yesterday on the – what he talked – what he said was the revelation of Iran working on a nuclear trigger, or a trigger for an atomic bomb?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what P.J. said was that this was an intelligence issue, and we don’t care to discuss intelligence issues. I think in broad terms, there are a number of reasons for us to have real serious concerns about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program, which just redoubles the need for the international community to get them to open up their program and raise confidence that it’s indeed – does have peaceful intentions with this nuclear program.

But the reports of this particular document, no, we don’t have any --

QUESTION: Well, is – are the reports of this particular – of this particular document, are they a reason to be concerned?

MR. KELLY: Well, again, we have a lot of reasons to be concerned about Iran.

QUESTION: Is this one of the reasons?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t want to get into the specific document --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to. I’m just asking is this report – are – is this report –

MR. KELLY: I think a --

QUESTION: -- a reason to be more concerned?

MR. KELLY: I think that we would need to know – we would need to know more about the particular document.

QUESTION: And you don’t?

MR. KELLY: As far as I know. I mean, as far as I know, we don’t. We have plenty of reasons to have concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.

QUESTION: Is this one of them?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know, Matt.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. KELLY: Dave.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about a decision by the Pacific island country of Nauru, I guess it’s called, to recognize Abkhazia implicitly in return for aid from Russia? But a little bit more broadly, there were reports also this week that Russia has a very large security presence in Abkhazia and is sort of acting like it’s sort of sovereign there.

MR. KELLY: Well, it’s been doing that for a while --


MR. KELLY: -- on that ladder. On the first issue, the issue of the island of Nauru – is that how it’s pronounced, Nauru? I didn’t say it right – recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, I would just say that the recognition by Nauru, in and of itself, does absolutely nothing in our eyes to help establish or underpin in some way the legitimacy of the de facto governments in both of those separatist regions.

We continue to support, as the absolute vast majority of countries around the world, the territorial integrity of Georgia, and that means that we consider these entities as parts of Georgia and not as separate entities. We call on all states to uphold their commitments under numerous UN Security Council resolutions and the French-brokered ceasefire agreement, and we call on all countries to support, as we do, Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.


QUESTION: On Pakistan?


QUESTION: The Pakistani supreme court today passed an important judgment on NRO, which was issued by former President Musharraf, in which they have termed and otherwise unconstitutional and illegal and they’re also indicted for starting all the corruption cases, which also includes the present President Zardari. Do you have any comment on it and how it’s going to affect U.S.-Pakistan relations?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, Lalit, I think I’ve seen reports of that, but I don’t have anything for you now. If we can get you something, we’ll get you something.


QUESTION: Afghan President Hamid Karzai was supposed to announce his cabinet today. He’s kicked that down the road by a few days, at least, and this is not the first delay he’s made. Any comment on the lack of being able to form a government by the president?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, clearly we’re – we are carrying on very close consultations with Hamid Karzai and his advisors as he goes forward in forming a new government. This is a very important next step in Afghanistan’s democratic development. I don’t think that a delay of a few days is necessarily indicative of any particular problem. I think it’s more indicative of the fact that they want to make sure that they have the kind of government that will be effective and will enjoy the support of the Afghan people.


QUESTION: In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has been allowed to meet with members of her party. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. KELLY: Yes, I do. Of course, it’s the last one in a long series.

We welcome the decision by Burmese authorities to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to pay her respects to three senior members of the Central Executive Committee of her party. We hope this is a step towards a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the entire Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy. We continue to urge the Burmese Government to engage Aung San Suu Kyi and the democratic opposition, ethnic leaders, and other stakeholders in a genuine dialogue to find a positive way ahead for the country.

Yeah, Lalit.

QUESTION: When is the next round of talks between U.S. and Burmese authorities going to happen?

MR. KELLY: Lalit, I’m not sure anything has been scheduled. I mean, obviously we have an embassy there and there’s quite a bit of engagement on that level, but I’m not sure when the next sort of formal talks are scheduled.

QUESTION: Do you have any further update on the American national who is arrested in Burma right now who is on a hunger strike? Do you know what his health conditions is? Have you got any consular access to him?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure that we’ve gotten consular access to him. Let me see if I can get you information on that, if we have an update.

Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, on the plane that’s being held in Bangkok, the Thai authorities are investigating, but is the FBI involved or U.S. officials or representatives involved in that?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that FBI or U.S. law enforcement representatives per se are involved. Clearly, we have a lot of interest in this particular incident. As we have said, we applaud Thailand for its swift action in this and its decision to refer this matter to the UN Sanctions Committee. But as far as specifics about U.S. law enforcement involvement in it, clearly we are very interested in it but I don’t have any specific information about whether or not individual agencies are involved in this investigation. I know that we’ve been very supportive of the Thais’ effort in the investigation.

QUESTION: Also on North Korea, and recognizing that Ambassador Bosworth was just here but didn’t answer the question, can you speak about the letter that he delivered?

MR. KELLY: I can only confirm that there was such a letter, Matt, but I can’t discuss the content or the tone. I mean, I really have to refer you to the White House, and then I’m sure they’ll give you the same answer.

QUESTION: So he handed over a letter from President Obama to President Kim?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think he handed it to --

QUESTION: No, no, no, not directly to him, but he --

MR. KELLY: He handed over to the North Korean Government.


MR. KELLY: That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: He delivered this letter.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And is there any reason to believe that this letter would have been – the contents of the letter would have strayed from his general message that they should come back to the Six-Party Talks?

MR. KELLY: Now, I’ll refer you to my previous statement, which is we’re not prepared to talk about the statement. However, I think one can feel very confident that it was – it concerned what our very simple agenda was for the visit of Ambassador Bosworth, and that was to get North Korea to come back to the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: Can I ask why is this such a big secret?

MR. KELLY: Well, for one thing, it’s not for me to talk about a letter from the President. That’s really for the White House to discuss.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you speak on behalf of the Administration as well. And presumably, if Ambassador Bosworth was going there to try and get the North Koreans back to the Six-Party Talks, there wouldn't be anything unusual about a letter that – from the President to the North Korean leader saying we’d like you to come back to the talks, no? Or am I wrong?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think openness and transparency in our diplomatic relations is a good thing. That’s why we have these daily briefings. On the other hand, we also --

QUESTION: I’m sorry. There’s absolutely nothing open and transparent about what’s going on right now.

MR. KELLY: Well, there’s a reason for that.

QUESTION: You’re refusing --

MR. KELLY: And the reason is that sometimes diplomacy --

QUESTION: Is there some secret message to North Korea?

MR. KELLY: No, it’s not – we’re not – we’re talking about – I would not use the word “secret.” I would use the word “confidential.” Now, sometimes diplomacy is best conducted --

QUESTION: You just talked about --

MR. KELLY: -- in a private, confidential way.

QUESTION: Which is all great, but you just talked about being open and transparent.

MR. KELLY: Well, to the extent --

QUESTION: Now you’re being absolutely opposite --

MR. KELLY: -- where it advances the U.S. national interest, we are open and transparent. But the main thing is advancing U.S. national interest.

QUESTION: So you just --

MR. KELLY: Sometimes that’s best accomplished in a private diplomatic way.

QUESTION: All right. So, anyway, the letter was delivered. Have you gotten a response or has – did Ambassador Bosworth get a response?

MR. KELLY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Ian, can you say anything specific about the meetings that Secretary Clinton will have in Copenhagen? Is there anything being set up? She’s going to be at this gala dinner. Is she going to be speaking with specific delegates from different countries?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: It seems as if when the President goes, they have to have something there to sign. There’s not going to be much time for negotiation --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and everything has to be done ahead of time. Is she going to try and influence this procedure?

MR. KELLY: Well, she will – as I said at the beginning of the briefing, she will have some bilateral meetings. These meetings now are – very few of them are set. I mean, she’s plugging herself into some set events of the conference itself, but the bilateral meetings that she’s having are not – those aren’t set yet. And as I said, I’m sure we’ll have more information tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:26 p.m.)

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