1:23 p.m. EDTMR. KELLY:
Okay. Good afternoon. Let me start off by reading a statement from U.S. Embassy Kabul.
Today, the U.S. Embassy mourns the loss of three civilian members of our Embassy community and seven members of the U.S. military who were killed in a helicopter crash in western Afghanistan. The helicopter carrying Afghan security forces, U.S. military, and U.S. civilians crashed for unknown reasons. Fourteen Afghan security personnel, 11 U.S. military personnel, and one American civilian were also injured in this crash. We wish for a speedy recovery of those injured today, and send our thoughts and sympathies to those families who lost loved ones.
In about an hour, a little less than an hour, Secretary Clinton will come down here and deliver her opening remarks on the release of our annual report on International Religious Freedom. The report outlines abuses of religious freedom and progress towards greater religious freedom in 198 countries and territories around the world. Our Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor will speak following the Secretary and will also respond to reporters’ questions.
And speaking of that, I’ll take your questions. QUESTION:
Ian, what do you guys make out of the inspection over the weekend of the Qom facility?MR. KELLY:
I think we’ve seen the reports on it. This is, of course, an IAEA-led investigation, and so we’re deferring to them for any kind of information on the inspection.QUESTION:
Have you – but you were – presumably, you were briefed on it, right?MR. KELLY:
Well, I’m not sure that we have been briefed on it. I mean, this just happened yesterday.QUESTION:
No? Okay. Then is there any update on the P-5+1, when or whether they will meet again with the Iranians? MR. KELLY:
I know that there was a telephone conversation today with the political directors from the six countries. Of course, Under Secretary William Burns participated from our end. They discussed the need for unity of the P-5+1 in our approach to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. They also discussed the way forward on arranging a follow-on meeting to the Geneva meeting, but that’s very much now still in the works. It’s a matter of discussion between Mr. Solana and the Iranian authorities, but nothing’s been set in terms of follow-on --QUESTION:
Is the U.S. position that if the Iranians don’t accept in full what was presented to them on the LEU deal, that there shouldn’t be another meeting?MR. KELLY:
I am not sure that there is any linkage, per se on that – of course, the agreement that was reached in Geneva – to have a proposal go to the Iranians from the IAEA. This was a very important outcome from that meeting of a few weeks ago. But I’m not sure that I would draw any direct linkage between the two. QUESTION:
But doesn’t that mean --MR. KELLY:
-- that they are not fulfilling what they were supposed to fulfill?MR. KELLY:
Well, I think you saw what Mr. El Baradei said on Friday, that they asked for a little more time to review the proposal. And he indicated that we expected an answer by mid-week. So we’ll hold off to see what comes out of that.QUESTION:
Can I ask about Iraq?MR. KELLY:
After the bombings yesterday, the – Iraq has renewed a request to the UN to look into whether foreign countries are assisting in these attacks. What – how does the United States feel about this, and do they support such an inquiry? Would they – would the U.S. support it?MR. KELLY:
I think we would support it. I think that Secretary Clinton is on the record as saying that we would support the idea of the UN appointing a senior official to go into Iraq and look into these very serious allegations. This – she expressed her support of this a few weeks ago, even before the horrific events of yesterday. So we’re on record as supporting that.QUESTION:
And does the U.S. think there could be some sort of foreign involvement in this?MR. KELLY:
Well, I think what happened -- QUESTION:
Especially Syria?MR. KELLY:
-- was, as I say, so utterly horrific that this – the circumstances surrounding it need to be looked into. I don’t think that we have any information to indicate that there was any kind of involvement outside of Iraq and the bombings themselves, however.
Lal, do you have --QUESTION:
Yeah. On Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah yesterday at the press conference demanded removal of a Independent Electoral Commission chief and also some of the cabinet ministers of the Karzai government, saying that if they are not removed, there might not be free and fair elections in the country.MR. KELLY:
What’s your response to that?MR. KELLY:
I’m not aware of Dr. Abdullah himself calling for the removal of certain officials. We’ve seen some of the reports of some of the officials around him suggesting that this should be done. I mean, we don’t really have a position on this. We’re not trying to encourage or discourage anybody from running or not running. That’s the choice of the candidate himself.
What we’re focused on is making sure that the process is – that everyone abides by the various procedures and processes that are laid out in Afghan law. But we’re not going to take a position one way or another about whether or not a candidate should run or not run. And again, I would discourage you from saying that Dr. Abdullah has said he won’t run unless these officials are removed, because I don’t think he has said that. QUESTION:
No, he has set some conditions – some few conditions or set of conditions before the Independent Electoral Commission and asked for the removal of the chief.MR. KELLY:
Yeah. I haven’t seen that he himself has actually said that, that he’s put conditions before he would – before he would arrive.QUESTION:
And secondly, at the 10:30 briefing here, there was a passing reference of establishing of two U.S. consulates in Afghanistan, one in Mazar-e-Sharif, and another I don’t remember. Do you know what the status is and when they are going to open?MR. KELLY:
Yeah. Let me see if I can get you – I don’t have that information right now, but let me see if we can get you more information on that.QUESTION:
Yes, another question, Sri Lanka, if I can?MR. KELLY:
The Sri Lankan Government today has announced that they will set up an investigation commission to look into the allegations that the State Department report says about war crimes. Do you have any comment on it? Have you received information from --MR. KELLY:
Well, yeah. I think as we – as we said on Friday, this is exactly what we would expect Sri Lanka would do would be to look into these very serious allegations of human rights abuses. So I think that we would welcome these reports that they’re planning to set up this kind of investigative commission.QUESTION:
And finally, is Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell going to India this week?MR. KELLY:
Not to India. QUESTION:
Not to India?MR. KELLY:
Not that I’m aware of.QUESTION:
Where is he going?MR. KELLY:
I’m sorry, I – let me see if we can get you some information.QUESTION:
He said he was going to be going to Burma soon. Is that --MR. KELLY:
That is – no, there have been no decisions on that.
Can you give us a readout of the meeting between Ambassador Sung Kim and Mr. Gun on Saturday in New York? Did they discuss about the Ambassador Bosworth’s visit to Pyongyang? Did that come up in the meeting?MR. KELLY:
Well, I think you – I’m sorry, I’ve been distracted by my staff. (Laughter.) I hear sounds of crickets, I think. That’s no indication as to the amount of interest you all are paying to this briefing. (Laughter.)
I think you saw the short statement that we put out over the weekend that Ambassador Sung Kim did take advantage of Ambassador Ri Gun’s presence in New York. They did meet, and Ambassador Kim took the opportunity to once again lay out what our position is on the way forward with the ultimate goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that we believe that the best way forward on that is through the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.
And then you know that Ambassador Kim is now in La Jolla for this track two conference which is sponsored by the University of California. This is an annual conference. And there are no plans for further bilateral meetings at this conference, but I don’t exclude that there won’t be some side meetings with Mr. Ri Gun.
So there’s no plans for any meetings, but you’re not excluding the possibility of side meetings?MR. KELLY:
Sure. Yeah. I mean, they’re going to be together in this conference.QUESTION:
So they could talk during the conference, but not -- MR. KELLY:
They could talk during the conference. There’s nothing set up though, nothing formally set up.QUESTION:
I still have a question about the Saturday meeting. Can you comment any about the – anything about the tone of the meeting? Like was it a cordial meeting, good meeting?MR. KELLY:
No, I’m afraid I wasn’t able to talk to Ambassador Kim, so I can’t give you a characterization in that way.QUESTION:
A follow-up question?MR. KELLY:
North Korea. Did North Korea present any different suggestions or any proposals on Saturday? Because there has been some report that North Koreans might have presented some proposal which was a little bit going forward, mentioning about the Kang Suk-ju meeting Bosworth when he’s going, if he’s going to visit Pyongyang. So could you elaborate on some of the -- MR. KELLY:
Yeah. I -- QUESTION:
Well, what I have is what we presented in the meeting, and I just described it to you, that we want to do all we can to get the Six-Party Talks back on track. But I don’t – I normally wouldn't talk about what the other country in a bilateral meeting had presented.QUESTION:
Will you have -- will there be additional meeting in New York later this -- MR. KELLY:
There’s nothing planned for New York.QUESTION:
But you will not exclude it also?MR. KELLY:
But also, I don’t exclude that. Yes.
Yes. Also on North Korea?QUESTION:
Also on North Korea. Former deputy head of the North Korean mission to the United Nations Song Ryol Han has applied for a visa to contact his previous post. Do you have any comment on the reports?MR. KELLY:
No, we wouldn't comment on – this is somebody who is – went – take up a diplomatic assignment in New York, you mean?QUESTION:
Someone who’d already been there before?QUESTION:
No, I – we wouldn't have any comment on that.
Why would you not have any comment on that?MR. KELLY:
Because visa records are confidential.QUESTION:
Well, you went all of your way to tell us that Ri Gun got a visa.MR. KELLY:
We don’t have any comment at this time. But -- QUESTION:
I don’t understand -- MR. KELLY:
No, we would not comment on a visa application on somebody, whether or not he was going to get one or not get one. After the fact, after he’s got one, sure we would acknowledge the fact of it.
What is your reaction to the elections in Tunisia with the President Zine El Abidine winning the 90 percent of the votes?MR. KELLY:
If you could wait just a moment. We were concerned about the recent elections. The Government of Tunisia did not allow international election monitoring. We were not – we are not aware that permission was granted to any credible independent observers. We are also committed to working with the president of Tunisia and his government to advance the partnership between Tunisia and the United States. We’ll continue to pursue bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and we’ll continue to press for political reform and respect for human rights.
Ian, prior to your press conference on Friday, there were clashes against in East Jerusalem. Now, you keep talking – or both the Bush Administration and your Obama Administration have been talking about a two-state solution with Senator Mitchell as envoy. And yet, you talk about an urgency to the situation. Now, you saw what’s happened with the Iranians with the buildup of their nuclear program. And are the Iranians egging on this situation to where it could go ballistic? You saw the clashes in Gaza after the withdrawal, and it’s just a repeat. And is this media propaganda on all sides to inflame the situation? How do you view all that?MR. KELLY:
Well, I think on that latter point, of course, we call on all sides to lower the rhetoric. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to establish the kind of conditions where the two sides can sit down and actually start working towards the goal that everyone shares, and that’s a comprehensive peace based on a solution of two sides living side by side.
I think that our energies and our focus right now are on just that, that we’re going to vigorously pursue this goal using all kinds of opportunities to do so, in the form of bilateral meetings. I think you saw that UN Ambassador Rice was in the region. She met with Prime Minister Fayyad and she met with Israeli leaders as well. The Secretary will be in Marrakesh in – I guess it’s next week, and she plans to consult with foreign ministers from the region at that time. And also, Special Envoy Mitchell will go back to the region.
So we do call on everyone to lower the rhetoric, to avoid situations that inflame the situation, and everybody should keep their eyes on the goal here of a comprehensive peace. And to get there, we’ve got to get the two sides to the point where they can sit down and have meaningful negotiations. QUESTION:
And when is Mitchell going? MR. KELLY:
We don’t have exact dates, but in the near future.
Just on Guantanamo Bay and the detainees there, any recent movements in efforts to relocate them, any success stories that you can --MR. KELLY:
Well, there are a lot of efforts ongoing, and Special Envoy Fried is very active in trying to find places for the detainees to be settled, but we don’t have any news to announce at this time.QUESTION:
And then as a follow-up, last week, the Supreme Court granted cert on the first of two petitions by a detainee by the name of Kiyemba, who is a follow-up to last year’s Boumediene decision to see if he can’t be released into the United States. Does the fact that the Court granted cert to that case which now holds it up for many months in any way delay efforts on your part in dealing with other countries?MR. KELLY:
Well, I would hope. I mean, we – the President has decided that Guantanamo should be closed and that the detainees there should be resettled. And I would certainly hope that these efforts wouldn’t be obstructed. Not to pass any judgment on the Court’s decision, but we are trying very hard to meet the President’s deadline.QUESTION:
Thank you. MR. KELLY:
(The briefing was concluded at 1:41 p.m.)