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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 22, 2009


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • STATEMENT
    • U.S. calls on all Honduran parties to remain calm and avoid actions that promote violence
    • U.S. Stresses need for dialogue and encourages parties to sign the San Jose Accords
    • U.S. appreciates the de facto authority's promise to respect the Vienna Convention
  • HONDURAS
    • U.S. is in contact with our Embassy in Tegucigalpa and discussing types of assistance to provide Brazilian diplomats
    • Secretary Clinton believes this is an opportune time to open channels of communication and have real dialogue
    • U.S. understands the situation is very tense around the Brazilian Embassy and urges all sides to refrain from violent actions
    • U.S. understands all parties are willing to sign The San Jose Accords except the de facto regime
  • PAKISTAN
    • Government of Pakistan has expressed its determination to eliminate extremist groups
    • U.S. will work with Pakistan to defeat extremism
    • U.S. believes A.Q. Khan remains a risk for proliferation and work with the Pakistan authorities to ensure he is not a risk
  • SOUTH AFRICA
    • U.S. Embassy closed after receiving information about a possible threat against embassy
    • State Department notified American's to remain vigilant when in the vicinity of U.S. Government facilities
    • Embassy will reopen as soon as an assessment has been made about security posture
  • YEMEN
    • U.S. is deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict between the Yemeni Government and the al-Houthi opposition groups
    • U.S. calls on both parties to declare an immediate ceasefire
    • U.S. calls on all states in the region to facilitate the safe passage of emergency relief supplies
    • USAID has provided $2.5 million to World Food Program to help feed displaced persons and a quarter-million dollars to UNICEF to provide drinking water and hygiene kits
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • State Department needs to be very open and robust in deliberations of strategies for Afghanistan
    • State Department will weigh in with ideas for new strategy, but it's up to the President to decide how to move forward
  • NORTH KOREA
    • If North Korea takes irreversible steps to denuclearize U.S. and its partners will reciprocate in a comprehensive coordinated manner
  • HUMAN TRAFFICKING
    • Secretary Clinton places a high priority on countering trade in human beings and the exploitation of young girls
    • Secretary Clinton raises this issue at every opportunity in public and privately with world leaders


TRANSCRIPT:

1:47 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: My apologies for the delay. We were delayed because I wanted to read a statement at the top regarding the situation in Tegucigalpa.

The United States calls on all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that might provoke violence in Honduras and place individuals at risk or harm. We urge that all parties refrain from actions that would lead to further unrest.

Above all, we stress the need for dialogue. The United States supports the proposed mission by the Organization of American States to promote this dialogue. We encourage the parties to sign and implement immediately the San Jose Accord, which remains the best approach to resolve this crisis. Additionally, we stress the importance of respecting the inviolability of the Embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa and the individuals on its premises.

We note with appreciation the de facto authority’s statement last night promising to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, to which Honduras, of course, is a party. Respect and protection for the inviolability of diplomatic premises is a universally accepted principle of international relations.

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

QUESTION: What’s your response to calls from the Brazilian diplomats for protection from the U.S. Consulate and its security forces there? And also, the calls for help – I believe they’ve cut off water and electricity to the Brazilian Embassy.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s your position on responding to those calls?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We’ve – we’re, of course, aware of this situation. We’re in contact with – our Embassy in Tegucigalpa is in contact with their counterparts in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. And we’re discussing what kind of assistance that we can provide to help them during this crisis. It’s a very sensitive situation there on the ground, and I don’t want to get into the details of what kind of assistance we’re discussing. But we are very aware of the situation and we’re willing to help.

Yeah. Goyal.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. KELLY: Any other?

QUESTION: No, no, no, no.

QUESTION: No, no, no, we have more.

MR. KELLY: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday night, Micheletti said that this San Jose agreement is dead because in the moment that Zelaya came into Honduras, this agreement has no sense. Is any position or there – is there any answer from the U.S. Government about this?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think you probably saw the comments of the Secretary and President Arias last night. We continue to believe, President Arias continues to believe that the proposed San Jose Accord is the best way forward on this. As President Arias said, there is no plan B at this point, that this is the best way to go. And both sides would be well advised to sign and implement the accord as soon as possible and bring this crisis finally to a resolution.

I think you also heard the Secretary say last night that the – that this is a real opportune time for the two sides to open up channels of communication and have a real dialogue, and refrain from any statements or rhetoric or actions that would further inflame the situation. I think you also heard President Arias offer to use his good offices to help mediate between the two. But the key here, the most important thing, is dialogue. And that’s what we – we’re happy to support, and most importantly, we support President Arias and we support the efforts of the Organization of American States.

QUESTION: Why is it an opportune time? Because Zelaya’s in the neighborhood?

MR. KELLY: Well, that’s one reason why it’s opportune. We should – the fact that he’s there and there’s an opportunity for them to have dialogue, I think, is the way to go on this.

QUESTION: Have you any position on the curfew? There’s supposed to be a curfew till today, 7:00 p.m. Have you any position about this?

MR. KELLY: Well, we understand the situation is very tense, especially in the area immediately around the Brazilian Embassy. The U.S. Embassy is closed because of the situation. I think that in addition to calling for dialogue, we’re also – we also very much urge all sides to refrain from actions – particularly violent actions. But I don’t have a particular position on imposing a curfew.

QUESTION: There’s a lot of confusing reports on how Zelaya really could get into the country. They say that he used a diplomatic car, which was not from Venezuela. Have you sorted out what really happened and how it went?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any special information for you on that. All I have is what you have and what President Zelaya himself has told the media, that he came in over land, presumably by car. But how exactly he came in, from what country and by what route, I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Are you in contact with the – are you discussing this with the Honduran government?

MR. KELLY: We are – I think we’re in contact, really, with all sides, we – including with President Zelaya. The Embassy in Tegucigalpa is very, very active in trying to calm the situation and urge both sides to open up channels of communication.

New subject? Goyal.

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: How you see this playing out, Ian? Because – well, I’ll leave it to you. (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: How do I see it playing out? Well --

QUESTION: I mean, they haven’t signed it yet. They’re extremely annoyed, the Micheletti --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- interim government, that he’s come back against their wishes. So why do you – I mean, again, just to follow on this, why would this be an opportune time, considering they’re angry at him already, they haven’t signed the accords? Why would they suddenly want to talk to him and sign the accord now?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think because it’s in the best interest of everybody involved to come to a peaceful negotiated solution to this impasse. And the agreement worked out by President Arias is the best thing on the table and is supported by virtually every other government in the region. And we should see this as an opportunity for the two sides to open up a line of communication.

I’m not going to try and predict how it’s going to play out over the next few days. I don’t think prognosticators have had a real good track record on how this thing plays out.

QUESTION: Do you expect a more stronger message from the U.S. Government because of --

MR. KELLY: Well, I can hardly imagine a clearer and more consistent message than the message that we’ve delivered consistently from Secretary Clinton, from the OAS, from President Arias, at every opportunity.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) these calls from the Brazil Embassy are going to be – whether you are going to provide assistance? You can’t be any clearer on whether you will provide assistance to --

MR. KELLY: Oh, I’m sure we will provide assistance. But we’re in the midst of discussing how we can help with the situation. But the situation is very fluid, and I’m just not in a position to give you the exact details of what – how we can assist.

QUESTION: It’s a good time for both parties to open up and to open a dialogue. Well, this morning was an article by Micheletti – I think it was the Wall Street Journal, I don’t know.

MR. KELLY: It was in The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Oh, Washington Post. Maybe. And actually, it’s the same position that he had all the time. Has Zelaya changed his position? Is Zelaya accepting all the proposals that the – what’s the position of Zelaya at the moment since you got in touch with him?

MR. KELLY: Well, obviously, you have to ask President Zelaya on his position. But it’s my understanding that he has indicated a willingness to sign the San Jose Accord. And as I said before, this is not just the position of the United States Government. This is the position of the Organization of American States, all countries except for the de facto authorities in Tegucigalpa, that President Arias’s plan – the San Jose Accord – is the best solution to all of this.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just lastly, I mean, if the inviolability of Brazil’s Embassy wasn’t to be respected in the ways that you’re calling for, what – how do you see that playing out then? What would be your response at that point if there was some --

MR. KELLY: Well, you’re asking me a speculative question.

QUESTION: He can be taken to a U.S. base, you think?

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) Again, I’m not going to speculate on how we would respond. Brazil is a valued partner and ally, and we want to do everything we can to ensure the safety of the Brazilian diplomats there and the security of the Embassy.

Of course, as I said in the statement at the beginning, we note with appreciation the statements of the de facto authorities in Tegucigalpa that they will respect the Vienna Conventions. So we will hold them at their word.

QUESTION: Anyone else?

QUESTION: I have a question --

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. KELLY: I think Goyal has been waiting patiently.

QUESTION: I have a question, thank you, about the terror plot in New York was unfolded, several people were arrested, including imam from the mosque and his son. And those people are still having – they are saying that they still have camps trained in Pakistan.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: One, if you have new information on this. That means they have many more people around the U.S. or major places. And do you really still believe that Pakistan is 100 percent with the U.S., because there are still training camps existing, according to these people who were arrested?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t have any comments about the arrests or indictments in New York. I will say that the Government of Pakistan has expressed its determination to eliminate dangerous elements and extremist groups within its borders. And we applaud this determination that they’ve expressed to deal with these militants who threaten not only our security, as we’ve seen in terrorist incidents and plots in the past, but also threaten the Pakistani democracy.

And as we’ve said before, we’ll work together with Pakistan to defeat extremism. We’ve offered them some very concrete assistance, and we look forward to continuing that assistance.

QUESTION: Is there any – just to quick follow, is there any terror alert in the U.S. or in New York, especially now during this UN General Assembly meetings and only because of this?

MR. KELLY: I’m sure that the very professional and vigilant law enforcement and – both on the local and the federal level, that these officials are stepping up their game, as we say. But I’m not aware of any specific threat information.

QUESTION: On Pakistan again, do you have any follow-up to the questions from yesterday about the article in the Sunday Times of London about A.Q. Khan?

MR. KELLY: I don’t. I don’t have any update. We may have something this afternoon, though, on it.

QUESTION: Can I just sort of address a more general point about what the article is saying?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The general point is that the narrative has been that A.Q. Khan is the man that was responsible for much of the proliferation, but that certain evidence has come out to suggest that most of his actions were done with the complicity of the Pakistani Government. Do you have any response to that sort of narrative framing of the A.Q. Khan story?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think we’re not going to comment on a press report. We have said consistently that we have real concerns about Mr. A.Q. Khan. We believe that he remains a risk for proliferation. And for that reason, we stay in very close contact with the Pakistani authorities to ensure that there is no proliferation risk from him or from any other source in Pakistan.

QUESTION: Can you shed any light on why the U.S. Embassy in South Africa and other offices have been closed?

MR. KELLY: Yes. The Embassy received information about a possible threat against the Embassy, and so as a precaution the State Department decided to close U.S. Government facilities in South Africa today. We’ve notified the American community in South Africa to remain vigilant when they’re in the facility of – I’m sorry, when they’re in the vicinity of U.S. Government facilities.

The Embassy is tracking developments very closely and assessing its security posture and formulating an appropriate course of action. And I think part of that course of action is to consult closely with South African authorities. And the Embassy will reopen as soon as we’ve decided that the – as soon as we’ve completed our assessment of the security posture.

QUESTION: Do you have more specific information about what kind of threat it is?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know how it is with these kinds of situations. We don’t like to go into too much detail of the nature of the information that we’ve gotten.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what – I mean, from internal groups, external groups? Was it specifically against the Embassy? I mean, some sort of information --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. It was pretty credible information regarding the U.S. Government facilities in South Africa.

QUESTION: But you can’t tell us anything beyond that?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m afraid not.

QUESTION: We’ve written that the – a message from U.S. diplomats advised citizens to review a memo on al-Qaida. Is --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not aware of that message. I’ve got a copy of the Warden Message here, and I don’t --

QUESTION: Okay. I assumed it was a Warden Message.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t see any reference to other memos here and --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: -- could be, but I just don’t have any information.

Yeah.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: What’s the latest on the conflict in Yemen? How much is the U.S. concern – have concern about what’s going – continuous conflict?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And the Saudis are worried that al-Qaida is coming back.

MR. KELLY: Right. Well, we’re deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict between the Yemeni Government and the al-Houthi opposition groups in northern Yemen. We call on both parties to declare an immediate ceasefire, to ensure the security and access of humanitarian aid workers in the region. And we call on all states in the region to facilitate the safe passage of emergency relief supplies to those in need.

So we are concerned, and we are also providing quite a bit of assistance to help, especially the internally displaced persons in Yemen. There are some 150,000 internally displaced persons. USAID has provided $2.5 million to the World Food Program to help feed some – 100,000 people over the next few months and a quarter million dollars to UNICEF to provide safe drinking water and hygiene kits to internally displaced persons.

Also, the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has provided 1.2 million to UNHCR to facilitate IDP registration and distribute materials related to shelter, blankets, tents, and related nonfood items.

QUESTION: Do you see Iran having any role in igniting this conflict?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any particular information about the role of countries in the region. Just – I’ll just say that we’re aware of these reports of involvement by outside parties, and we’re closely monitoring the situation.

Let’s go back here, and I’ll come back to you, Goyal.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about Japan’s Prime Minister Hatoyama’s speech on climate change, where he said that he would – Japan would cut emissions by 25 percent by 2010?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of that particular offer. Of course, we would welcome such offers. As you know, we’re deeply committed to achieving a strong international agreement. We’re already implementing strong policies here at home to meet the environmental economic and national security challenges posed by climate change. Some of these actions we’ve taken, of course, over $80 billion in the stimulus package for clean energy investment, and we have new policies for increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

But we also – we recognize that there’s a lot more that we have to do, and we have to continue to work with partners like Japan and other partners around the world to reach an agreement that can bring in participation from all over the world, because it is a global problem.

QUESTION: Ian, I wanted to ask about Afghanistan with this whole debate roiling over more troops or not. Where does the State Department stand on this, and specifically Ambassador Holbrooke’s office, on whether adding more troops would help or hinder the civilian effort that you --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- guys are spearheading?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know there’s been a lot of discussion and debate on the report or assessment of General McChrystal, this report that he did on our military operations. The President has said that he wants to refine our strategy and keep the focus on what our primary goals are, which is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida.

I think in terms of the State Department contribution to this, of course, this – I think it can be put in the category of enhancing good governance. It’s – we’re going to need to have an across-the-board approach to implementing the President’s new strategy. The President has told his senior foreign policy advisors that he wants an – what he calls an unvarnished assessment and wants their frank opinions. And I think you probably saw what the Secretary said yesterday, that she and her colleagues all believe that it’s much better to be very open and robust in deliberations of such important issues as this.

And there is a process, a very vigorous process, that runs through the NSC and will go to the President, but – and of course it’s up to the President in the end to make the decision.

QUESTION: So what area is the State Department weighing in on it at this point?

MR. KELLY: We will – I mean, we weigh in constantly, but once all of the assessments are in, there will be a deliberation in the National Security Council that the Secretary will participate in.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean in – time wise where you’re weighing in.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I meant what is your considered advice that the State Department is giving as you weigh in?

MR. KELLY: Well, the Secretary will give her advice to the President when the President asks for it. And of course, her advice to the President is confidential.

QUESTION: According to this news report, General McChrystal is saying that if no more troops, then U.S. or NATO might lose the war. What he meant by losing the war? I thought some of the think tanks are saying hat, unless you have cooperation, intelligence, and the – in many other ways from the neighboring countries, especially with Pakistan, you cannot win this war, no matter how many troops you send there.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, Goyal, I just – I don’t want to get ahead of – I don’t want to get ahead of the process. For one thing, the leaked report is a classified report. It is what we call a pre-decisional assessment, and that simply means it’s a frank assessment, by the guy on the ground, the one who has probably – the one who is best positioned to make such an assessment. And his assessment will be thoroughly evaluated, both at NATO and here through the National Security Council process, and I just don’t want to get ahead of that process.

QUESTION: Well, let’s forget the classified or unclassified report, but do you agree as far as cooperation from the neighboring countries is important than more troops?

MR. KELLY: Say that again, Goyal. I’m not sure I understood that.

QUESTION: Let’s say, rather than more troops, cooperation from neighboring countries, including Pakistan and intelligence is important, then no matter how many troops they send.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you agree with that?

MR. KELLY: Well, you’re asking me to make a value judgment. I’m not sure I’m in the right position to make that kind of judgment. But clearly, regional cooperation is extremely important.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Korea. I would like to ask on North Korea issue. Yesterday, President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea proposed to offer North Korea a so-called grand bargain, a package of incentive in which – for which North Korea would give up its nuclear weapon. What is U.S. Government’s position about that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we share a common position with South Korea regarding the proper approach to this – to the issue of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This was reinforced yesterday in the Secretary’s meeting – or meetings – with South Korean officials. Regarding President Lee’s speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, I think it’s really not for me to comment on the particulars, because it’s – this is his policy. These were his remarks.

I will say that we’ve been very clear that if the – if North Korea takes irreversible steps leading to complete denuclearization, and thereby upholds its commitments made in the joint statement of 2005, that we and our partners would be prepared to reciprocate in a comprehensive and coordinated manner, that we’d be prepared to discuss some kind of package of steps that we could take.

QUESTION: He wasn’t --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: He wasn’t calling for steps. He was calling for, kind of --

QUESTION: Grand bargain.

QUESTION: Right, a grand bargain where you can do all this stuff at once, not wait for North Korea to take one step and then the U.S. takes one step and so forth. It’s a change of approach.

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not sure it is a change of approach. I think that we all agree that the final goal is the complete denuclearization. And that’s what we’re focused on, and we’re willing to look at other approaches if the North Koreans agree to uphold their commitments that they’ve already made.

Yes.

QUESTION: Could you share the U.S. Government’s plan to discuss North Korean nuclear issue with the Six-Party Talk leader at G-20 meeting and U.S. – UN conference?

MR. KELLY: You’re talking about the meeting in Pittsburgh coming up?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that this will be an issue at Pittsburgh. I think the --

QUESTION: What about New York?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t think I have any information about concrete plans for more talks.

Yes.

QUESTION: This is just kind of a travel thing. Kurt Campbell said yesterday that Steinberg’s going to the region. Do you have any specifics, details, when he’s leaving, when he’s --

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t. Yeah. I know he is going to the region. I just don’t have any specific details that I can announce.

QUESTION: Who’s going?

QUESTION: Steinberg.

MR. KELLY: Jim Steinberg, the --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. KELLY: -- Deputy Secretary.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. KELLY: Last question, Goyal.

QUESTION: Just a quick question on --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- human trafficking. As economies go bad around the globe and so does this human trafficking more and more rising up, especially from Eastern Europe and China, many of those human traffickers are innocent girls being used for sex, including in this area. So what – you think, especially now at UN General Assembly and Pittsburgh and all that, all these issues are – don’t you think are important to discuss?

MR. KELLY: Oh, they’re very important. And I know the Secretary places a real high priority on countering this terrible trade in human beings, especially the exploitation of young girls. And I know it’s very much at the top of her priority list, and she raises it at every opportunity in public statements and more privately with leaders.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:18 p.m.)



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