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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary of State
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 20, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton's Schedule / U.S. - India Strategic Dialogue Announced
    • U.S. - India have different points of view on climate change / Negotiations ongoing
    • Mediation talks have produced significant results / Movement on both sides, no resolution yet / 72 hour suspension in talks / Talks to resume later this week
    • Secretary Clinton's call to Mr. Micheletti / Encouraged him to continue negotiations / Potential consequences for aid and future relationship between the U.S. and Honduras
    • U.S. supports President Arias' mediation efforts / Looks for affirmation from OAS / Return to constitutional and democratic order
    • U.S. wants North Korea to return to negotiations / Fulfill obligations / Goal is denuclearized Korean Peninsula
    • North Korea represents a significant threat to the region
    • U.S. continues to implement UNSC 1874
    • Awaiting final certification of election results / Some irregularities / U.S. Embassy officials observed / Appears as if General Aziz has won
    • Construction in East Jerusalem is not a new issue / U.S. view on settlements is known / Should be part of permanent status negotiations
    • Special Envoy Mitchell will travel to the region soon
    • Conversations with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Special Representative Holbrooke will travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan soon / Will meet with officials in both countries / Will check on the status of displaced persons returning to Swat Valley
    • Restored Ambassadors / Many issues to discuss / Concerns about the Venezuelan Government
    • U.S. is concerned about the situation / Support for the UN and Transitional Federal Government


12:53 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: You didn’t travel?


MR. CROWLEY: Neither did I.

QUESTION: I thought you – I thought you were on travel.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve got to defend my budget this week, so – (laughter.)

Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Just to begin, as you all know, Secretary Clinton has had a full schedule in India since her arrival on Friday night. I will note that she just had a press availability with your colleagues who are traveling with her, during which she and External Minister Krishna released details of a strategic dialogue that will unfold involving the United States and India going forward, which includes a number of working groups on nonproliferation, counterterrorism, military cooperation, energy and climate change, education and development, economics, trade, and agriculture, science, technology, health and innovation.

And they also released a detailed joint statement that alludes to common security interest, defense cooperation, seeking a world without nuclear weapons, civilian nuclear cooperation, global institutions, sustainable economic growth and development, education, space, science and technology innovation, high-technology cooperation, energy security, the environment and climate change and other global issues. We’ll have statements to release on those after the briefings.

With that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: What’s the latest on the Honduras? It seems as though the talks this weekend did not work out so well, and I’m wondering where you stand.

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I think we think they might have produced a greater progress than as at first evident. I wouldn’t – in our view, a foundation was laid this weekend for a possible resolution that adheres to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and decisions taken within the Organization of American States and the variety of ways we have and continue to communicate with the parties to encourage them to stay focused on these negotiations and to reach a peaceful negotiated restoration of Honduras’s democratic and constitutional order.

Over the weekend, both Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon and our Ambassador in Honduras, Ambassador Llorens, had periodic – had a wide range of contacts, periodic updates from President Arias, as well as contact with both the negotiating teams for President Zelaya and the de facto regime. We’ve also been consulting over the weekend with other counterparts from other countries. They, in turn, have been communicating through the weekend with both parties.

And yesterday from New Delhi, the Secretary had a phone conversation with the leader of the de facto regime, Mr. Micheletti. And she laid out during that call – encouraged him to continue focus on these negotiations and also helped him understand the potential consequences of the failure to take advantage of this mediation.

QUESTION: Now, that’s the first time that she – that anyone, I think, has talked to Micheletti?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a fair question. I don’t – we have been touch with representatives from both sides, but that clearly is her first contact with him.

QUESTION: So not on –

QUESTION: Do you have any readout on how firm she was in her conversation with Micheletti?

MR. CROWLEY: I think she –

QUESTION: Because Mr. Kelly has been, you know, very vocal from this podium, saying: We want Zelaya returned. And he has now announced that he is planning to go back this weekend even if there is the potential for some sort of confrontation with the military.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me take the second point first. Obviously, we’re in a 72-hour suspension. The negotiating teams have left Costa Rica to consult with each side. We would expect and hope that these negotiations will continue later in the week. Meanwhile today, in the OAS I think there is an assessment going on of the current mediation. And we hope that there will be a reaffirmation within the member-states of the OAS of the importance of this mediation and the need to continue to focus on this kind of a peaceful resolution.

QUESTION: Well, to go back --


QUESTION: -- was she very clear to Mr. Micheletti that the U.S. does not recognize the de facto government, and that whatever its objections during this weekend’s talks, it needs to make preparations to step aside and let the elected president come back?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it was a very tough phone call. However, I think it was – she made clear if the de facto regime needed to be reminded that we seek a restoration of democratic and constitutional order, a peaceful resolution. We do not think that anybody should take any kind of steps that would add to the risk of violence in Honduras, and that we completely support the ongoing Arias mediation.

QUESTION: So are you cautioning Mr. Zelaya to stay in Nicaragua, or whichever country gives him shelter, for the time being if that does lead to a lessening of tension?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’ve also made clear to President Zelaya that we think that mediation is the way to go.


QUESTION: Can you – any tougher actions, any declarations that you’re planning to do if they – the defacto regime keep doing the same --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we have options if not – also legal requirements if these negotiations fail.

QUESTION: You said – you spoke about greater progress than just at first sight. What kind of progress exactly and what do they agree on?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think I’ll leave it to President Arias. It’s very difficult to do a play-by-play from here in Washington. But through the weekend, you did have movement of the positions that both sides took coming into negotiation, which is not to say that we are at the – at a successful conclusion yet; in fact, we’re not. But obviously, the negotiations were still ongoing. But I think President Arias in his communications with us has indicated that he actually saw movement on both sides during the course of the weekend, which is why he thought it was useful to come back there in a week.

QUESTION: And also, the European Union suspended its aid to Honduras today. Is it something U.S. is considering?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have options that are available to us if these negotiations are unsuccessful.


QUESTION: The de facto government indicated yesterday, I believe, that they couldn’t accept any arrangement whereby Zelaya could come back. Have you seen any indication since the Secretary’s phone call that they might be softening that requirement?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s wait and see what happens. Obviously, there’s some posturing going on here. But clearly, we believe that it’s important, as we’ve said throughout this situation, that we need to have a restoration of democratic and constitutional order. We would like to see President Zelaya returned to Honduras, and that we’d like to see a clear path that leads to follow-on elections.


QUESTION: P.J., just to clarify that. You said that you told Zelaya that mediation is the way. But have you told him specifically, “Do not go back because it’s dangerous and it could create tension and violence”.


QUESTION: Directly, you’ve said that?



QUESTION: P.J., can you elaborate on what these options are – these other options?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, in the Secretary’s phone call with Micheletti she reminded him about the consequences for Honduras if they fail to accept the principles that President Arias has laid out, which would – it has a significant impact in terms of aid and consequences, potentially longer-term consequences, for a relationship between Honduras and the United States.

QUESTION: Is Tom Shannon here or --

MR. CROWLEY: He’s here.

QUESTION: There’s sharp differences between India and the U.S. --

QUESTION: I don’t --

QUESTION: All right. Hold on. Let’s stay with – let’s stay with --

QUESTION: When was the last time anyone spoke to Zelaya?

MR. CROWLEY: I think over the weekend Ambassador Llorens spoke to President Zelaya.


QUESTION: Change the subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. In fairness, let him be next.

QUESTION: There are sharp differences between India and U.S. on the issue of climate change. How is it going to impact the strategic ties between the two countries?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think so. I mean, obviously there are differing points of view. They did come up in the event that the Secretary had over the weekend. I don’t think they were necessarily as sharp as perhaps some of the reporting would have suggested. This is a subject of ongoing negotiations. So I think what is encouraging is that both the United States and India are committed to do whatever they can to reach a successful agreement in Copenhagen later this year. But obviously, negotiations are ongoing. But I think the Secretary felt it was a constructive conversation.

But obviously, as we’ve made clear, and I think the Secretary reflected on this in some of her comments over the weekend, that on the one hand we, the United States, and other developed countries have a special responsibility because up until now we have, in fact, generated many of the greenhouse gases that have brought us to where we are. But we also recognize going forward that something like 80 percent of the greenhouse gases that will be emitted in the future will come from countries like India and China. So that, ultimately, for us to have – to successfully address the challenge of climate change in the world, you have to have meaningful steps done both by developed countries like the United States, and emerging countries like India and China.


QUESTION: In Seoul, Assistant Secretary Campbell has said that the U.S. is willing to offer a comprehensive package to North Korea for them to come back and take irreversible steps to disarm. I’m wondering, is this a step back or a pull back from the action-for-action approach that the U.S. was looking in past Six-Party Talks, because you’ve been burnt on this. Are you looking for North Korea to do some major steps before the U.S. does anything – kind of looking more toward the long-term goal?

MR. CROWLEY: I think as a senior official who stood at this very podium last week indicated, we’re not looking for half measures. As Secretary Gates, I think, said some time ago, we’re not going to resell the same horse over and over again, so that we want to see North Korea come back to negotiations. But we also want to see North Korea come back to its obligations that it made in 2005. Clearly our long-term objective has not changed, which is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And we want to see North Korea take meaningful steps, irreversible steps towards denuclearization. But clearly, we do have a new situation. So I think that Assistant Secretary Campbell’s comments reflect the fact that we do have a kind of a different reality at the present time. But we are obviously willing to do things if North Korea themselves does their part, which obviously is coming back to a negotiating process, reaffirming their obligations under the 2005 agreement, and taking irreversible steps towards denuclearization.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, the whole basis for the last negotiations when things were going well was action-for-action. Can we now say that that approach is –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the ball is in North Korea’s court. So I don’t think that we are against the concept of action-for-action. But first and foremost, we need to see North Korea come back. In other words, if they come back to a negotiation, we’re not going to reward them for that step. And that’s, I think, the – a difference reflecting just the reality of the current situation.

QUESTION: In an interview today to ABC, the Secretary spoke about North Korea. And she said, they are no real threat to us. Was it – what’s –

MR. CROWLEY: She said what?

QUESTION: She said, they are no real threat to us. Is – was she speaking about the missiles that they are going to – they are threatening to launch or about North Korea as a whole, and is it a change of U.S. policy?

MR. CROWLEY: No, I don’t think so at all. I think currently the – North Korea represents an infinitesimal threat to the United States directly. But clearly, North Korea and particularly its provocative actions does represent a significant threat to the region. And its actions recently have been unhelpful, potentially destabilizing. What we want to avoid, obviously, is something that would precipitate, among other things, an arms race in Asia.

So – but we believe that we have a combination of capabilities that mitigates the threat to us, but we recognize, as she said in her comments this morning, that North Korea does pose a significant challenge to countries in the region. That’s why we are committed to ongoing collaboration with countries like Japan, countries like South Korea, others, to try to do whatever we can to bring North Korea back to a negotiating process and ultimately towards taking measurable steps, irreversible steps, towards denuclearization.


QUESTION: P. J., on another subject, when you first came in, you were talking about the budget. And in fact, the President apparently has asked the cabinet to cut – find ways of – cutting $100 million in the next 90 days.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) three months.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, these are apples and oranges. Here at the State Department, we are going through, as other cabinet departments are, building the budget that will be submitted in February for 2011.


MR. CROWLEY: So – so –­

QUESTION: -- but I’m not quite sure I understand. So – but he said, in the next 90 days, find $100 million. So that’s – where is that coming out of?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the White House. I mean, obviously, he may have put out a directive to all cabinet officers to see if we can’t do something on that, but I’ll refer you to the White House.

QUESTION: Can you take this question? I mean, three months ago, he said that he ordered each cabinet agency – he gathered the whole cabinet three months ago today and gathered the whole cabinet and asked each agency to slash $100 million in the next 90 days. So today is the 90-day anniversary of that, and I guess the challenge is up. And could you take the question of what the State Department –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I do think this is a fine question to ask my colleague Robert Gibbs.

QUESTION: No, no. President Obama asked each cabinet agency to slash a million dollar – $100 million from their own respective agencies.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: On North Korea again?

QUESTION: Yes. How do you assess the presidential elections in Mauritania and will you recognize the new president?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think in Mauritania there was an election over the weekend. And we await final certification by the Constitutional Council. Some irregularities were noted. There were over 250 international observers in Mauritania. There were embassy officials within our U.S. Embassy that participated in those observances. But so I think it’s a premature question, but as far as I know, the election results indicate that General Aziz has won.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the arrest of 50 pro-democratic leaders in Burma by the junta yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not.

QUESTION: Do – Israel apparently rejected a new demand from the U.S. to stop a settlement project in East Jerusalem. Can you confirm that? Can you confirm that U.S. tried to stop this project and that it was rejected?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think there have been – this is not a new issue. There have been issues revolving construction in East Jerusalem have come up a number of times. I believe they came up when some of you might have been with the Secretary in the region back in February. We have made our views to – known to Israel. Our views are not new either, that this kind of construction is the type of thing that should be – is the type of issue that should be subject to permanent status negotiations, and that we are concerned that unilateral actions taken by the Israelis or the Palestinians cannot prejudge the outcome of these negotiations. That’s one of the reasons why we’re working hard through George Mitchell and others to create conditions so that you can have a resumption of negotiations that would lead the parties to address these final status issues. George Mitchell will be traveling to the region later this week. His itinerary is still not completely set, but he will be traveling to talk to Israeli officials, Palestinian officials, others in the region. I think he’s got a speech scheduled in Bahrain later this week, where I think he’ll have the opportunity to express once again our gratitude to Sheikh Salman for his message last week.

QUESTION: Can you confirm – excuse me --

QUESTION: Has he had any conversations with Ambassador Pickering about this meeting last week with Hamas leaders?

MR. CROWLEY: I think Ambassador Pickering is a private citizen. I’m not aware that we’ve had – we had any contact with him before or after that meeting.

QUESTION: Can we go back to settlements? Can you confirm that the Israel ambassador in Washington was summoned to the State Department on Friday?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve had conversations with the Israeli ambassador recently on this and other subjects.

QUESTION: Well, can you clarify when that meeting actually was?

MR. CROWLEY: Last week sometime, I think.

QUESTION: Last week; not over the weekend?


QUESTION: Friday --

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: And he met with who?

MR. CROWLEY: He met with a number of high-level officials, not the Secretary.


MR. CROWLEY: A number of high-level officials.

QUESTION: What is the agenda of Ambassador Holbrooke when he visits Afghanistan and Pakistan this week?

MR. CROWLEY: I think in – obviously, he makes regular visits to both countries. I think he’ll also be traveling to India and Brussels on this particular trip. Obviously, in Afghanistan, he’s going to be looking at the current situation and conferring with Afghan officials, with Ambassador Eikenberry, both on the current military campaign, but also on progress in developing civil society issues. I think in Pakistan, he will confer with a range of Pakistani officials. I think he’ll also go out once again to check on the status of Pakistani citizens that have been affected by the ongoing military efforts.


QUESTION: When exactly is he going?

MR. CROWLEY: Last I checked, his departure date – it’ll be sometime this week, but I’m not sure that that is set.

QUESTION: Do you have any – do you have any lower-level assessment of how the resettlement of Pakistanis in Swat Valley has been going?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s a fair question. I know there have been some media reports that they’ve begun to flow back. I think that’s exactly what Ambassador Holbrooke will be looking at, because obviously, as you get closer to the end of the year, you’ve got great concerns in Pakistan about the plight of these people.

So I think that’s exactly what he wants to go check on, is what is their status, what are the current numbers, and what are the implications both in terms of addressing their immediate needs, but more significantly, I think when he was here talking to you last month, that if we thought that we had to care for these people over the winter, that has significant consequences in terms of the amount of aid that would have to be done – have to be raised by both the United States and the international community.

QUESTION: Can we go --

MR. CROWLEY: Elise, welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can we go back to India? I’m sorry if this came up last week, but why did Secretary Clinton wait for the third day of her visit to India to meet with the senior leadership of the Indian Government?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean --

QUESTION: I mean, usually – usually, you know, obviously, there are other things that she wanted to do there, meet with business leaders and – but is she – by meeting with the government last, is she trying to send a sign that --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think so at all.

QUESTION: -- civil society is equally as important as meeting with the government? I mean, usually, that’s the first thing that the Secretary of State does when she arrives, is kind of step into meetings with high-level officials.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think there’s a cookie cutter approach here. I can recall ten years ago going to China with the President of the United States and he didn’t go to Beijing on day one. It might well be the availability of senior officials within the Indian Government. But what the schedule reflects is the Secretary’s commitment to have a broad-based engagement not just with the government officials, but also with civil society and entrepreneurs, as she did over the weekend.

I don’t – there’s no message being sent here at all. I think what you’re seeing in the announcements that she and the External Minister Krishna announced tonight, you have an expanding and significant agenda. I think also during her trip, the Secretary offered, on behalf of the President, an opportunity for the prime minister to come for a state visit later this year, and he accepted. So I think what you’re seeing in terms of the agenda is a very significant expansion of the relationship and the issues that will be subject to the – our bilateral and multilateral relationships going forward.


QUESTION: On North Korea – North Korean high-level officer KimYong-nam said yesterday North Korea will not be – participate in Six-Party Talks and said it’s totally over. How do – your response on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we recognize that right now, North Korea has declined to return to negotiations, and as a consequence, as we outlined last week, we are busily implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1874, and clearly doing things and taking actions in terms of sanctioning of people and sanctioning of entities so that if that remains North Korea’s position, it will pay a significant price for that position.

But as to at some point in the future, will North Korea have a change of heart? We certainly hope so.

QUESTION: Coming back to Honduras, we’re getting some reports out of the region that there might be some sort of rift now between Zelaya and the Venezuelan Government. Is that Washington’s understanding? And if so, is that something that can be leveraged as these negotiations move on? To put it another way, is Chavez out of the way, and does that make Washington happy?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) We certainly think that if we were choosing a model government and a model leader for countries of the region to follow, that the current leadership in Venezuela would not be a particular model. If that is the lesson that President Zelaya has learned from this episode, that would be a good lesson.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Zelaya? And you were talking about the last time that someone had spoken to him. I mean, if you’re – you seem to be kind of leaving yourself room for Zelaya not to be returned as the president. I mean, there doesn’t seem to be all that much communication with him. I mean, he didn’t meet with, you know, Secretary Clinton when he was here. I mean, it doesn’t seem --

MR. CROWLEY: Say it again? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry, no, he did. I’m sorry, sorry about that. I’ve been away.

MR. CROWLEY: I was in that meeting. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’ve been away awhile. But it just doesn’t seem that there’s been a whole lot of high-level contact with him increasingly as this crisis goes on. And the longer he stays out as – the longer that he stays out of the country, I mean, it seems rather unlikely that he’s going to return as president, wouldn’t you say?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, again, we are committed to the current mediation. At the risk of quoting from Yogi Berra – (laughter) --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I think that the mediation has shown some results and also shows some additional promise. That’s why we support President Arias and why we’re looking today within the OAS for a reaffirmation within the OAS of these mediation efforts.

We have – maintaining steady contact with President Zelaya. He has met with Secretary Clinton. He has met with Assistant Secretary Shannon. He has met with Dan Restrepo of the National Security Council. We’ve maintained contact with him and his team throughout this weekend. We are committed to President Zelaya’s return as part of a negotiated solution, and we are committed to finding ways to get Honduras to a point where it can hold a peaceful and legitimate election later this year, so --

QUESTION: You’re committed to his --

MR. CROWLEY: -- I’m not sure I agree with your supposition.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you’re committed to his return, then why didn’t – that – wasn’t that reflected in the statement that you issued over the weekend?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, right now, our focus is on the mediation efforts and trying to help President Arias find a way to bring this to a successful conclusion. I mean, this isn’t – it – we shouldn’t personalize this. We are committed to a return to democratic and constitutional order. We want to see President Zelaya finish his term. We want to see Honduras move forward with new elections and to put in place a new government that the Honduran people can support, and we’ll see as legitimate. We reject the – rejected the extra-constitutional way in which President Zelaya was removed from power. But these are about the – this is about our support for the principles that are laid out in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

I think what you see here is that we have put in place a policy that reflects those principles. It’s why the Secretary went to the region last month and fought hard for those principles in the – when the issue came up over Cuba. It’s not about a particular leader. It’s about a trend that we’ve seen in the region, a very encouraging trend that we’ve seen in the region in recent decades. And we don’t want to see any backsliding from that trend.


QUESTION: When you say that the Venezuelan Government is – should not be an example of government for any leader --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m a believer in understatement.

QUESTION: Can you say that again? (Laughter.) It’s like – it’s justifying, sort of, the coup d’état, because if any government try to follow the socialist Government of Venezuela, then it’s fair, then, that somebody can try to make it – you know, defeat the government or something like that? Can you explain a little bit where we’re – what was your statement about Venezuela?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, as we have talked about and as the Secretary has said in recent days, we have, on the one hand, restored our Ambassador to Venezuela. There are a number of issues that we want to discuss with the Venezuelan Government.

On the other side of the coin, we have concerns about the government of President Chavez, not only what he’s done in terms of his own country – his intimidation of news media, for example, the steps he has taken to restrict participation and debate within his country. And we’re also concerned about unhelpful steps that he’s taken with some of this neighbors, and interference that we’ve seen Venezuela – with respect to relations with other countries, whether it’s Honduras on the one hand, or whether it’s Colombia on the other. And when we’ve had issues with President Chavez, we have always made those clear.

QUESTION: Have you ruled this as a coup d'état there legally --


QUESTION: -- with Honduras?

QUESTION: Can you go to Somalia? Do you have any reaction to the decision of the Shabab militia to bomb UN, to declare them illegal there? And today they raided also some offices of UN in --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, we have tremendous concerns for what’s going in Somalia. We continue to do everything that we can to both support the UN mission in Somalia and also to support the Transitional Federal Government, and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

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