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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 14, 2009


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton Travel to India and Thailand
    • In Phuket for ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, ASEAN Regional Forum
    • Meetings with Dutch FM Balkenende, Latvian FM Riekstins
    • Speech Tomorrow / Approaches to Implementing Obama's Foreign Policy Vision
    • Tax Exemption for Diplomatic Missions in New York
    • Promoting U.S. policies to American citizens / Hometown Diplomats Program
    • Secretary's Recovery Going Well
  • HONDURAS
    • President Arias / Need to Give Mediation Process Some Time / No Artificial Deadlines
    • Next Round of Talks Scheduled July 18 / U.S. Support for This Process
    • Call for Restoration of Democratic Order / President Zelaya
  • MEXICO
    • U.S. Takes Any Accusations of Human Rights Violations Seriously
    • Assistance to Mexico / Mandatory Report to Congress
    • Need to Address U.S. Image Abroad / Torture is Unacceptable and Abhorrent
    • President Calderon Has Taken Courageous Steps Against Drug Cartels
  • RUSSIA/GEORGIA
    • Fundamental Differences on Georgia / Rejection of Russian claims on Abkhazia, S. Ossetia
    • U.S. Support for Territorial Integrity / Call on All Nations to Support
    • Visit of Russian President Not a Step Forward
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Call for Release of Journalists / Swiss Protecting Power Pushing for Consular Access
  • IRAN
    • Concerns about Levinson, Momeni
  • CUBA
    • Talks in New York on U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords
  • INDIA
    • Clinton Meetings and Activities in India / A/S Blake to Brief Tomorrow on Details
  • ISRAEL/SYRIA
    • Fredrick Hoff in Israel, then Damascus / Part of SE Mitchell's Efforts to Promote Peace
    • No Details of Mitchell Plans to Visit Israel


TRANSCRIPT:

12:52 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Afternoon. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to India and Thailand July 17 to 23rd.

While in India, Secretary Clinton will meet with the prime minister and with the external affairs minister. The Secretary and External Affairs Minister Krishna will discuss the structure and elements of an enhanced U.S.-India strategic partnership. This partnership will enable us to advance solutions to the defining challenges of the 21st century, and to enhance global prosperity and stability.

The Secretary will arrive in Mumbai on July 17. She will meet with a broad cross-section of Indian society in Mumbai and will remember the victims of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. On July 19, she’ll travel to New Delhi where she’ll have a full schedule of meetings with government officials, the leader of the opposition, entrepreneurs, scientists, and Indian youth. The Secretary will leave New Delhi on July 21st for Thailand.

In Thailand, she will meet with the prime minister and foreign minister, and hopes to underscore the importance of our alliance and our bilateral relationship and to share perspectives on our common interests in the region. She will visit Bangkok July 21-22 and Phuket July 22-23. The Secretary will travel to Phuket to lead the U.S. delegation –

QUESTION: Phuket.

QUESTION: Phuket.

MR. KELLY: Phuket. Yeah, that’s two days in a row they haven’t given me the correct phonetic.

The Secretary will travel to Phuket to lead the U.S. delegation to the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum. She’ll return to Washington on July 23rd.

You see also from her schedule she has a couple of bilateral meetings this afternoon with the Netherlands and also – with the Netherlands Foreign Minister Balkenende and also with Latvian Foreign Minister Riekstins.

And with that, we’ll go to your questions.

QUESTION: On the ASEAN part of the trip in Phuket --

MR. KELLY: Phuket.

QUESTION: -- how big a topic will North Korea be there? And does she have plans to meet with anyone from North Korea, if they’re there, or others who have been involved in the Six-Party process?

MR. KELLY: I imagine that North Korea will be a topic at the ASEAN meeting. On specifics of her meeting, she’ll have a number of bilateral meetings, of course. We hope tomorrow morning to arrange an on-the-record preview of the trip, both the India and the Thailand/ASEAN parts of that.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask that the operative words of that be “on-the-record?”

MR. KELLY: You sure can.

QUESTION: Excellent.

MR. KELLY: Message received.

Yes.

QUESTION: Ian, tomorrow Secretary Clinton is going to give what is billed as a huge speech at the Council for Foreign Relations here in Washington with Richard Haass. Politico has sort of, like, headlined that in today’s publication. Is the Secretary going to voice some of the particulars in respect to what she would like to accomplish or what has been accomplished? What can you say about tomorrow’s speech? Or is this just too – a day early to ask these questions?

MR. KELLY: It’s a day early to ask – no. (Laughter.) It is going to be – it’s going to – she will have a global perspective in this speech. What – I think what she hopes to do is to lay out some of our approaches to implement President Obama’s foreign policy vision. I think that the – what our goal is with this speech is to give a general frame for some of the approaches that we’ve been having. I think – but it’s going to have – mostly be forward-looking, I think.

QUESTION: Incidentally, both she, as well as Vice President Biden, have a lot of foreign affairs experience. Is she going to set her own course to some degree, or is this in tandem with the White House and Congress?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think – of course, the role of the Department of State is to carry out the foreign policy of the Administration. So I think the answer is it’s both her vision and also how we, as the State Department and USAID, intend to carry out the foreign policy of the Administration.

QUESTION: Can we go to Honduras?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Zelaya has laid down a – what people say is an ultimatum. He says that if the talks that President Arias is mediating don’t restore him or return him to power in their next session, that they will have failed and other measures may have to – other measures will have to be taken.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What – is that the same as the U.S. position?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you know what our position is – is that we think that all parties in the talks should give this process some time, don’t set any artificial deadlines, don’t make any – don’t say if X doesn’t happen by a certain time, then the talks are dead. We have to give the process a chance and support what President Arias is doing.

QUESTION: Well, will you regard them as having failed if they do not at their next session result in Zelaya returning?

MR. KELLY: Well, look, again, we don’t want to set an artificial deadline.

QUESTION: Well, that’s – are you saying the answer is no, you do not agree with Zelaya that they will have failed if they --

MR. KELLY: I think that we should give President Arias a chance. The next round of talks is scheduled for July 18, this Saturday. As I said yesterday, and as the Secretary has said, we’re very supportive of this process. And we’re calling on all parties, including President Zelaya and the de facto – most particularly President Zelaya and the de facto regime to work together and come to a peaceful resolution that restores the democratic order and --

QUESTION: And does that still entail his – Zelaya’s return?

MR. KELLY: That’s – that yes – because that is – the restoration of the democratic order would mean the restoration of the democratically elected president.

QUESTION: Who is?

MR. KELLY: President Zelaya.

QUESTION: On --

MR. KELLY: Welcome back, Sue.

QUESTION: Thank you. On Mexico, Human Rights Watch has sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking for the United States to hold up military aid to Mexico because of abuses committed by the army. Do you have any comment on that letter? Has she received it, number one? And is this something that you are considering because of the abuses?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I – as far as that specific letter, I’m not sure. I’ll have to get back to you. I think as a general proposition, of course, we take seriously any accusations of human rights violations or torture, whether it’s in Mexico or anywhere in the world. Respect for [1] human law and human rights are an essential component of our relations with Mexico, and it’s a component of any relationship we have, any bilateral relationship. And we work very closely with the Mexican Government and Mexican civil society to promote the respect for human rights.

Part of our assistance efforts, including portions of the Merida Initiative, will provide important support for Mexican institutions, including the justice system, the police, human rights groups, and other nongovernmental organizations, all of whom deal with these kinds of issues and address these kinds of concerns. And we’re providing training to both Mexican law enforcement agencies and the judiciary on enforcing the rule of law.

But on this letter in particular, I’m not aware of it, and we’ll see if we can get more information.

QUESTION: But in terms of cutting off all – of holding back on military aid, is that something that you’re looking at because of these abuses?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that we’re – I mean, first of all, I mean, I think --

QUESTION: Alleged abuses.

MR. KELLY: Alleged abuses. Yes, thank you. I mean, we would need to gather more data about --

QUESTION: I was under the – it was my understanding that 15 percent of this money was being held by law and that what’s coming up and what has to be done by the end of the fiscal year --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- which is now still several months away --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- it has to be certified that they’re not –

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Right. That’s absolutely right that we do have to provide a report --

QUESTION: For that money --

MR. KELLY: -- to Congress on that.

QUESTION: -- for that 15 percent to be released.

MR. KELLY: But – that’s absolutely right. Yeah. I mean, I --

QUESTION: So isn’t it correct to say that you already are withholding the 15 percent until --

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know that it is correct to say that. But we do know that we have this obligation to Congress, and we expect to be able to provide this report to Congress very soon. And we realize this is part of the legislation and we need to address --

QUESTION: But am I wrong in thinking that this money is held back until the certification is made?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know if we’ve held back any programs. I think that’s more the issue.

QUESTION: Well, it’s 15 percent of the FMF and something else --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- which is something like $57 million.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t want to give the impression that we’re holding back programs necessarily. We --

QUESTION: Well, isn’t --

MR. KELLY: As you point out, according to the law --

QUESTION: -- that what the law says?

MR. KELLY: -- we do have to withhold 15 percent of the funding until we provide this report.

QUESTION: Yeah. So --

MR. KELLY: And whether that means that we’re cutting back on programs, though, I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Two Mexican politicians and lawmakers are saying that – do you think the U.S. has the moral authority to criticize – or to say something about the Mexican armed forces’ alleged abuses when you guys have the history of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo? And what is the moral authority of the U.S., because the Mexican army is fighting a war that is caused in great part by the U.S. consumption of narcotics?

MR. KELLY: Well, this is a subject, as you know, of very intense debate here, both within government and in the media and among NGOs. But I’ll just say again that we take respect for human rights very seriously. They’re an important aspect of our bilateral relations with countries all over the world.

One of the reasons I think that – well, the main reason I think that President Obama wanted to close the Guantanamo camp was because he recognized that we needed to address this image, this – these concerns about the U.S. image overseas, and this was undercutting us. The U.S. does not support torture. The whole idea of torture is abhorrent to Americans. It runs against all of our principles. We do recognize that we need to address this perception of the United States, given our recent history.

QUESTION: Ian, I think you can respond, but the last administration apparently wasn’t so – wasn’t so sure about the abhorrence of torture. What’s the – what’s this Administration’s view of the last administration and its position on this?

MR. KELLY: I – this Administration feels that torture of any kind is unacceptable and abhorrent.

QUESTION: As I understand, according to some people from the White House, the decision to certify Mexico has already taken and it’s going to be a yes from the State Department to the U.S. Congress. Why the U.S. continue to support – I’m talking about the whole government – supporting militarization fight in Mexico against the narcotics- the narco-traffickers, basically? Why?

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: Do you think it’s the only resource, or do you believe that Mexicans --

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure that I accept the premise of your question. I will admit that I’m not an expert on Mexico, but I’m not sure I accept your characterization of the militarization of Mexico. I do think that President Calderon has taken some very courageous steps in fighting back against this scourge of the drug cartels which have terrorized the Mexican people and have attacked Mexican law enforcement personnel. And he’s consistently made clear that he will not – that he will take allegations of human rights abuses very seriously, particularly by members of his security forces.

QUESTION: But we have the Mexican army is untouchable in Mexico. Do you really trust them?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry, I just – I don’t have enough information to answer that question.

Yeah. Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, do you have any comment to the visit by the Russian president to South Ossetia, coming as it does after a few days after President Obama said that the differences about Georgia continue?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. The differences about Georgia obviously do continue. The very fact of that visit highlights the – our fundamental differences in this regard. You saw that President Obama reiterated our unwavering support for Georgian territorial integrity. And the United States and our partners in the G-7, our allies in the EU and partners – I’m sorry, our partners in the EU and our allies in NATO have all rejected this recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I think the only other country in the world that’s recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia is Nicaragua.

And we continue to urge Russia to respect Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and facilitate stability in the region, participate in the Geneva process, implement its commitments under the August 12th ceasefire agreement. And we call on all nations to continue to support Georgia’s territorial integrity.

QUESTION: Was his visit inappropriate?

MR. KELLY: Was it inappropriate? Well, it’s – certainly, I don’t think that it was a – any kind of step forward in terms of establishing stability in the region.

Yeah. Nina.

QUESTION: Ian, any movement on the journalists in North Korea at all? Any indication that their stance is softening at all?

MR. KELLY: I’m afraid I don’t have anything more for you today on that. You’ve seen our calls for them to be released on amnesty grounds. We don’t have any information about – our Swedish protecting power continues to try and get consular access, continues to try and get information, but I don’t have anything new, unfortunately.

QUESTION: So they haven’t been granted any access subsequent to these remarks that were made here?

MR. KELLY: No.

QUESTION: No? Nothing?

MR. KELLY: No.

QUESTION: I’m sorry if you covered this last week, but the – with the release of the four Iranians who were sent back from Iraq, have you heard anything further on --

QUESTION: Five.

QUESTION: Five. Thank you, Matt. On the release of Levinson – I mean, on Levinson’s whereabouts, Robert Levinson or --

MR. KELLY: No, we haven’t. And of course, we continue to call for more information about Mr. Levinson. We also have some concerns about Mrs. Momeni, whose passport hasn’t been returned, which has not enabled her to be able to travel. And of course, we’ve called for the release of the American citizen.

QUESTION: Have the migration talks actually resumed in New York?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. They have. They’re going on as we speak.

QUESTION: When did they begin?

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: When did they begin?

MR. KELLY: They began sometime this morning, I think around – well, I’m not sure of the exact time, but they began this morning in New York. We hope to have a – some kind of readout for you later this afternoon or --

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how long they’re supposed to go, or when we might expect this --

MR. KELLY: Late afternoon, I think we’ll have something.

QUESTION: Late afternoon? So we should expect to get it around 2 or 3 a.m.? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Related to New York, on a different subject --

MR. KELLY: Not that early. I think it would be a little --

QUESTION: A little later, like a 6 a.m. readout?

QUESTION: Do you have any --

MR. KELLY: In time for breakfast.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the mayor of New York, who has criticized the State Department’s decision on tax exemption for diplomatic missions in New York --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- in which he says will cost the city millions, tens of millions?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction?

MR. KELLY: No, I haven’t seen those comments. I’ll be happy to take the question, though.

QUESTION: Do you understand that they will lose money, obviously?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we also have to look at how the U.S. taxpayer will lose money too, because once we impose these kinds of taxes on properties, in diplomatic practice, the normal reaction is to take reciprocal action which will cost us – cost the U.S. taxpayer probably hundreds of millions of dollars.

Yeah. Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, yesterday, the Secretary, at the USAID meeting, said something that she said before, which is she wants to get that message out to the American people of why their tax dollars, speaking of which, should be used for foreign policy, diplomacy, et cetera, et cetera.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is there a – let’s say an organized program for doing that, for, you know, getting out the word in some type of a PR thing, a program? Or is it, just generally, she wants to make that case?

MR. KELLY: Well, that’s a very interesting question, Jill. And I, as a practicing public diplomacy professional – that was almost alliterative, not quite, but – I have often thought that we should do a much better job in telling the American people what we do. I think part of the problem is – of course, is our focus is entirely or almost entirely overseas. And because of the – some of the restrictions that we have about disseminating information in America under something called the Smith-Mundt Act, we are proscribed even from using some of the materials that we use to promote our policies overseas – proscribe us from using them here in America.

There is – I think there’s just a – there’s a tremendous story to tell with the U.S. Foreign Service, the kind of – the service that we do and the sacrifices that we make and our families make in promoting U.S. policies, often in places that are dangerous. And there is something called the Hometown Diplomats Program. Is this more information than you guys want?

QUESTION: No, but I just --

MR. KELLY: But --

QUESTION: Sorry, but when she’s talked about this so specifically --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- it sounded as if you might have some group in this building working away at some sort of a program to present, in a PR sense --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- your message to the American people.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And I know it raises these legal issues.

MR. KELLY: It does.

QUESTION: But is there any working group? Is there any plan for an organized presentation of that idea?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know that there’s quite a bit of talk about expanding this – what we call the Hometown Diplomats Program, where Foreign Service officers, when they come back on home leave, are – we arrange for them to speak to local newspapers, to local groups. I did it once. I spoke at – I’ve spoken at a couple of the colleges I attended. I spoke at our local library. And I think that these are the kinds of programs that we should try and expand.

I’ve always thought that my colleagues at the Department of Defense did a lot better job of getting the word out about what they do, and I – but I think obviously, the U.S. military is a heck of a lot bigger, it’s more visible in the U.S., there are bases all over, whereas all of our activity is not visible. It’s all – unless you travel, of course, then you see what we do.

But thank you for the question. That’s probably the longest I’ve talked in the month and a half I’ve been doing this. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You feel better now, right? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On India, when Secretary travels to India on the 17th for five days, will she be meeting other political leaders or think tanks? Will she be anticipating a town hall day?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think I gave you sort of a broad brush program for her in terms of the officials that she’s meeting and then some of the more public diplomacy activities that she’s doing as well. I think I’ll leave it to Assistant Secretary Blake, who is going to brief you tomorrow on the trip in terms of the details.

QUESTION: Is there a delegation traveling with her?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Is there a delegation traveling with her of congressmen, any senior officials?

MR. KELLY: Oh, obviously, some State Department officials will be traveling, including your humble servant. But in terms of other officials, let’s leave it to Mr. Blake tomorrow.

QUESTION: And during her speech last month on USIBC, she spoke about U.S.-India relation 3.0. Can you explain to us what does it mean?

MR. KELLY: Could you repeat that?

QUESTION: In her speech last month at the USIBC, she spoke --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- about Indo-U.S. relations have entered the third phase --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- which she deemed as 3.0.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you explain to us what does she mean?

MR. KELLY: Let’s – again, let’s leave that for Bob Blake. I mean, he’s the expert on this, if you don’t mind waiting --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. KELLY: -- till tomorrow morning.

Yeah, Dave.

QUESTION: Yeah. Ian, the, I guess, religious police in Sudan have reportedly flogged a number of women in public for wearing trousers. Some other governments have commented on this. I wonder if you had anything.

MR. KELLY: No, actually, I don’t have any information on that. But I’ll be happy to try and get more information on it.

QUESTION: How about nearby, this situation in Somalia where these two French security advisors were kidnapped this morning; do you know anything about that?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m afraid I have nothing about that, too. I’ll try and get you information on that as well.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes. Mr. Fred Hoff, who works with Senator Mitchell, is visiting Israel, and there are reports that he’s going to Syria also to promote starting the talks between Israel and the Syrians. And can you tell us anything about the – his mission? And also, is Senator Mitchell still planning to go to the Middle East?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Frederick Hoff works in Senator Mitchell’s office. He’s Special Coordinator for Regional Affairs in the Office of the Special Envoy. He’s currently in Israel meeting with senior officials, and after Israel, he does plan to visit Damascus. The visit is part of ongoing efforts by Senator, or Special Envoy, Mitchell and his team to secure a lasting comprehensive peace in the region.

Senator – I keep calling him Senator, I guess I can call him Senator – Special Envoy Mitchell does plan to go to the region soon, but we don’t have the details of that trip. I know he’s going to Israel, but I don’t have other details on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: The Secretary will be visiting India and Thailand. Does she have any plans of stopping by or visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan during this trip?

MR. KELLY: I’m sure that she will visit Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not on this visit. It’s just to India and Thailand.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yeah, just one quick thing.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: How is the Secretary’s recovery going? Because it seems to be taking quite a while. It was obviously quite a serious break.

MR. KELLY: I think it’s going well. I think that you’ve seen her doing a fairly normal schedule. She still needs to do some physical therapy on the elbow. But she’s going on this trip, and I think she’s close to resuming a full and, of course, very intense schedule, which is the normal kind of schedule that she has.

Okay. Thanks a lot. Oh, one more from Jill?

QUESTION: The cyber attacks of last week, is there any --

MR. KELLY: They – I know as of yesterday, they had stopped, and we’re still doing an assessment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)
___________
[1] Spokesman meant to say “rule of law”.



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