1:35 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Continuing on, the Secretary met this morning with Foreign Minister Frattini here at the State Department before departing for Montreal. They discussed the international response to the crisis in Haiti as well as an array of other issues of mutual interest, including Afghanistan, Iran, and diversity of energy supplies within Europe. And as she said in her press availability, Italy is a key partner and ally and we look forward to continued consultation and cooperation with our Italian partners on a shared global agenda.
The Secretary is currently in Montreal participating in the planning meeting that will eventually lead in the coming weeks to a donors conference on reconstruction of Haiti. In this meeting today, we focused on completion of a joint needs assessment that will guide donors as they formulate long-term assistance plans for Haiti.
On behalf of the American people, the United States extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to the loved ones of those lost aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409. We’ve been in contact with the Lebanese Government and, per the request of Prime Minister Hariri, we are providing U.S. assistance in the search, rescue, and recovery efforts. And consistent with our strong relationship with Yemen, the U.S. will continue to do all it can to support the government in the face of this tragedy.
QUESTION: Did you say Yemen?
And just finally before taking your questions, George Mitchell is on his way back from the region. Over the weekend, he met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, also met with King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman, and last night with Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo. But he’s on his way back to the United States as we speak.
QUESTION: On the Lebanon, can you be a little bit more specific about what the U.S. role is going to be in this? Who is going, if anyone, and what’s --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think normally we would provide assistance through the NTSB and most of our focus right now is whatever we can do --
QUESTION: Well, what did they ask for, I guess is the question.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I don’t know that – I mean, the USS Ramage has been redeployed to Lebanese waters to assist in search, rescue, and recovery. I assume the Ramage was in the Mediterranean at the time the airplane went down. And to – we’ll all – I think we’ll be involved through the NTSB and helping to investigate the loss of this particular flight.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the bilat this morning?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And whether the Amanda Knox case came up?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Whether the Amanda Knox case came up.
MR. CROWLEY: It did not.
QUESTION: Can you tell me – I mean, do you know why they decided not to talk about it? She had expressed some willingness earlier to bring it up with Senator Cantwell. Did she end up doing that? And why not bring it up this morning?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, first of all, it’s a matter of ongoing litigation. But neither the Secretary brought it up nor the foreign minister.
QUESTION: And then can you say if she has spoken with the senator about this?
MR. CROWLEY: The State Department has been in contact with the senator. I don’t know whether it was the Secretary directly, but Counselor Mills I know in the immediate days after the verdict was in touch with Senator Cantwell.
QUESTION: On the Italian meeting, both the Secretary and the foreign minister – unprompted – seemed to go out of their way to talk about Haiti and what a wonderful job the Italians think the United States is doing. Did this – given the comments made yesterday by the – or earlier today by the – whoever this Italian official is, did the foreign minister offer that unprompted praise in the private meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Or was – so he did. So they were embarrassed by this?
MR. CROWLEY: It did come up in the private meeting and --
QUESTION: Did he apologize?
MR. CROWLEY: He did not. He just said it did not reflect the view of the Italian Government.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the delay of the Afghan elections?
MR. CROWLEY: This was an Afghan decision. I think we support that decision. We want to make sure that the election when it is held is – results in an election process and an outcome that the Afghan people will support. So the fact that it takes a little bit more time gives us time to make sure the security will be appropriate for that and that the electoral bodies can – and make sure that it is an effective election.
QUESTION: On Haiti, on the orphans who are being adopted in Haiti, do we have any idea how many children are in the pipeline to come here, how many are already here? Around a hundred or so, I think --
MR. CROWLEY: I can do the second part of that better than the first, since you talked about that. It’s our estimate right now that 363 Haitian orphans have been evacuated to date and there are still some additional orphans in the pipeline, perhaps a couple hundred more.
We have provided 459 Haitians with humanitarian parole for medical and other reasons in addition to that. But it is something that we still have an interagency task force that is focused on making sure that we can identify, working with the Haitian Government, who is eligible for adoptions, where they stand in the process. A critical part of this is to make sure that we have – receive permission from the Government of Haiti for the transport of these orphans.
On the broader effort, as of 8 o’clock this morning, more than 11,500 Americans and family members have departed Haiti. We have 59 confirmed American fatalities, 55 private citizens, and four U.S. Government official deaths. And that includes, in addition to the State Department employee we previously announced, three dependents of U.S. Government employees that – we have confirmed their deaths, tragically, in the last couple of days.
To date, we have – we still have operations continuing with the teams from Fairfax and Los Angeles County, but to date, there have been 134 people rescued in the search-and-rescue effort, including 47 of those by the various U.S. teams that have been on the ground.
QUESTION: Can I ask you – just going back to that death toll --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: -- four U.S. official deaths, meaning the three were dependents?
MR. CROWLEY: Three were dependents.
QUESTION: Well, they actually – so they – but they count as official? I mean, I’m not sure --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, they’re part of the official – they were there in an official status as accompanying family members in Haiti.
QUESTION: From the --
MR. CROWLEY: But they’re not – obviously, they’re not U.S. employees.
QUESTION: Okay. But – okay, but – and the --
MR. CROWLEY: They’re children or spouses of.
QUESTION: Four Embassy workers, State Department people?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: P.J., could you also talk about if you have any update on the number of welfare whereabouts cases were resolved versus how many are still open about family members or --
MR. CROWLEY: I think we still have files on roughly 17,000 and it’s still a moving number, but I think we’ve resolved roughly two-thirds of those. So I would say we still have that kind of 4,000 or so that are open.
QUESTION: Okay. And then --
QUESTION: Can we say all the numbers real quick?
QUESTION: Four thousand and what?
MR. CROWLEY: Four thousand or so – in other words, of the 17,000 files that we’ve opened in our crisis database, about two-thirds of those have been resolved, Americans accounted for. We still have roughly 4,000, give or take, that we still have yet to resolve.
QUESTION: And then just staying on the numbers --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- The Washington Post this morning, in their article about immigration policy changes that might be afoot, talked about the number of – I think it was 55,000 for the visa status. Can you flesh out those numbers for us on the number of Haitians that might be allowed to come in?
MR. CROWLEY: I would defer to the Department of Homeland Security for that. Currently, we are not processing visas on additional Haitian citizens to come to the United States. But there is a cap levied on the number of – that can travel to the United States from Haiti, and that is something that we’ll be – we obviously are working with a variety of interest groups on as we go forward.
QUESTION: The Secretary mentioned this – or seemed to hint this morning that there was perhaps a change coming. When do you think that might happen and how?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, obviously, this is an issue that has surfaced. It’s something that we will look at as we go forward, but we’ve made our judgments at this point.
QUESTION: Can we go – a couple of others. You said that there are 59 confirmed. Can you talk about how many are presumed to be fatal – how many more?
MR. CROWLEY: Right now, we have roughly 37 additional that we have reports on, but that are still unconfirmed.
QUESTION: And then also on the adoption issue, I know in some ways, this is a DHS issue, but in other ways, they’re still keeping the State Department in their sight.
MR. CROWLEY: We’re – along with HHS and DHS, we are part of this effort.
QUESTION: Yeah. No, I know, but once the kids are coming to the – to – you’ve laid out a policy about what’s going to happen to the children once they come to the United States. There are some kind of state agencies here in the United States that are saying that they don’t agree with what the State Department has done in terms of bringing the children – kind of relaxing the strict requirements about making sure everything’s done before you bring them to the States. And they’re saying they’re not going to follow your instructions; they’re just going to do what they feel is right maybe in terms of putting the kids in foster care, things like that.
I mean, has the federal government – you know, the litany of agencies – State, HHS, DHS – kind of set forth a policy for all states to implement?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think there have been some very specific criteria outlined. I think our main concern is one, that any child that comes to the United States is – actually is – has been cleared for adoption. That remains an issue of great importance to us, and obviously, that’ll be very important as we work through additional children in Haiti who may have lost parents, but there has to be a thorough process to make sure that they may have other family members who can support them.
So I think we have clear criteria laid out, it’s very important, and we’ll work with – together with HHS. Our broad interest is the welfare of these children, but we have to make sure that we are going through the appropriate process as we work through these adoptions.
QUESTION: I guess maybe I should just clarify. Like, some of the parents are not being reunited with the children because some people at some state agencies – particularly, I guess, Orlando is one of the cases – are saying, “Well, you know, we didn’t agree to that with the State Department; we’re going to do what we think is best. We’re not reuniting you with the kids. We’re putting the kids in foster care.”
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we will follow the clear guidance that we have outlined for these cases together with our other sister agencies.
QUESTION: P.J., an internet question for you. Do you have any response to the Chinese ministry of information --
QUESTION: Can I stay, please, on Haiti?
QUESTION: More Haiti?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll – I’ll --
QUESTION: Yes, I do have two questions on it. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: He called me.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Sorry. We’ll stay on Haiti until we’re --
QUESTION: Can I just get a breakdown of the search-and-rescue results? You said 134 people were --
MR. CROWLEY: 134 people have been rescued thus far.
QUESTION: Do you know how many Americans, how many Haitians?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not have that number. The majority are Haitians.
QUESTION: Okay. I guess the reason I ask is because there’s been a pretty vocal complaint from both sides of this argument here, many saying that those rescued were in wealthy hotels and those – several parents of some missing university students saying that not enough of their tax dollar resources are going to rescue their children.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve said, first and foremost, when we put the DART team on the ground, they started to assess where was the greatest potential to save lives. And we weren’t focused on just saving American lives, weren’t focused on just saving international lives, were focused on saving all lives. And then, as the teams went to respective sites, they’ve got an array of equipment, including listening devices, including dogs, and these are focused on human beings trapped under the rubble, and where was the evidence that told us that this would be the appropriate place to dig and search. And their success speaks for itself.
The fact is the majority of these people rescued were Haitians citizens. Many of your respective outlets have covered these with the amazing pictures of people being pulled out. I mean, this is a vitally important initial phase of the operation. These operations continue as we speak. There will be a point at which, tragically, we’ll begin to recognize that there may not be other opportunities. But even now, in the last 24-48 hours, you still have remarkable people that have been able to survive in various places. So the teams continue at work.
But one of the reasons they went to both the Hotel Montana and the Hotel Christopher – in the case they went Hotel Christopher it’s because we knew that there were a substantial number of UN personnel there. We went to the Hotel Montana because we had clear reports that there were an array of individuals there of all backgrounds – American, international, and Haitian.
But the teams have been – have responded over the course of the last few days to particular appeals as they’ve been doing their work, so it’s a combination of the two. I’m sure the teams are gratified that the number that they have been able to rescue is remarkable. But clearly, when you put it together with the tens or hundreds of thousands of people that we know have and will perish in this, it – the loss of life is staggering.
QUESTION: And is it --
QUESTION: And it must be hard though to actually make the call to stop search-and-rescue efforts when these people seem to be so resilient and --
MR. CROWLEY: Which is --
QUESTION: -- I mean, keep defying the odds.
MR. CROWLEY: And this is, first and foremost, a decision for the Government of Haiti to make and why we think it’s been wise that these operations have continued long past that kind of golden window where you would normally expect people to survive. The normal estimate is something like 90 hours, and we’re more than twice past that window and still these teams are enjoying success.
QUESTION: The internet. The Chinese ministry of information --
MR. CROWLEY: I favor the internet.
QUESTION: -- said today that they are transparent when it comes to the internet – this is in response to the Secretary’s call last week for an investigation into cyber crimes. They say they are transparent and that statements like the one that the Secretary made last Thursday are designed to diminish China. Do you have a view on that?
MR. CROWLEY: We – the Secretary put forward a vision for the internet that we think is broadly shared around the world, that it promotes the free flow of information. She talked in the speech about a freedom to connect, that being able to surf the internet without restrictions, have access to information, it is empowering of people. It is empowering of societies. And obviously, she outlined that there are countries around the world that have restrictive policies regarding the internet. And over time, that this will inhibit the free flow of information, the creativity that might be resident within those societies, and the innovation that can result when people have the ability to not only seek information, but interact through the internet. And we think that the free flow of information is something that is a right that all citizens have under the Declaration of Human Rights.
QUESTION: But do you think this spat between Google and Beijing could turn into a – like the first front of a cyber war between – for the free flow of information?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we put forward our position. And we are aware that China has a different position with respect to restricting information. We saw that China was, in particular, restricting information around particular anniversaries, say, Tiananmen Square last year, for example. We think this is inconsistent with the information environment and prerequisites of the 21st century.
So we will continue to promote the free flow of information, unfettered access to information, the ability to have virtual freedom of association. These are all, we believe, fundamental tenets of the environment and – that we live in. And we will not back away from advocating that this should be something that all countries should promote.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Some struggles again between the media and the Venezuelan Government. I would like to hear your point of view or any comments on that. Five TV channels have been suspended on the weekend in Venezuela.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly we think that a free and independent media is a vital element of any democracy, and any time the government shuts down an independent network, that is an area of concern. And we will continue to voice those concerns to any government, including the Government of Venezuela.
QUESTION: When you say that you are continuing to voice these concerns, that means to bring this issue in a multilateral frame, or what do you mean by that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and we have. In our promotion of human rights around the world and our respect for universal rights around the world, that includes a free and vibrant press. We value that within our own society and we certainly promote that as we evaluate what media – what role they play in other countries.
QUESTION: I think the question was: Have you raised this with the Venezuelans?
MR. CROWLEY: We have raised this issue with Venezuela.
QUESTION: Since --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that at the Embassy we’ve raised this today, but obviously, I think over the weekend, our Embassy in Venezuela voiced its concern.
QUESTION: Any possibility that you can raise this issue, probably at the OAS or in a future meeting at the --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – at the present time, I’m not aware that we have any plans to take this to a higher level, but obviously, that’s something that remains an option.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yeah. It is reported that Six-Party Talks will begin – will be resumed soon. Has the North Korea presented any prior condition to come back to the Six-Party Talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Nothing has changed. We continue – nothing has changed from the – Ambassador Bosworth’s trip last month, and indications from North Korea, we – our position remains that North Korea should return to the Six-Party process without preconditions.
QUESTION: On North Korea --
QUESTION: It’s about normalization process. Sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. One more on North Korea. Actually, the South Korea chief negotiator for Six-Party Talks Wi Sung-lac, who visited this building last week and had consultation with U.S. officials, on his way back to the office in Seoul yesterday, he told reporters that denuclearization process and the peace treaty negotiation could be pursued simultaneously to have synergy which will help mutually. So is U.S. have same position?
MR. CROWLEY: There’s nothing new in that. In other words, we have said if North Korea comes back to the Six-Party process and if it does start – begins to demonstrate and take affirmative steps towards denuclearization, that we would be prepared to have a wide-ranging bilateral or multilateral dialogue on other issues, and those could proceed within the Six-Party process as well. So that remains available to North Korea, but the first step is to commit to come back to the Six-Party process.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And what do you think that the Six-Party talks will begin soon or --
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn't want to characterize it at this point. The ball is in North Korea’s court.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s about the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia. You know last week Armenian constitutional court’s recent verdict on the protocols between Turkey and Armenia caused an uneasy atmosphere between two countries again. And Turkish – last Friday, Turkish foreign minister Mr. Davutoglu had a phone call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton --
MR. CROWLEY: He did.
QUESTION: -- and raised his concerns about Armenian Constitutional Court’s verdict. I wonder what was Clinton’s response to it and could you please give us some details about the phone call?
And also, today there is some news in the Armenian press quoting Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon saying that U.S. welcomed the ruling. Can you confirm this and could you say this is the official position of State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think there was a phone call between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Davutoglu on Friday. They did talk about this and other issues. Our position in private remains our position in public, that stemming from the agreement between Turkey and Armenia late last year, it is important that both sides take steps to fulfill the commitments that they have made. Obviously, we understand that this involves actions where the executive branch of each country working with their respective legislatures, and we will continue our conversations with both Turkey and Armenia to encourage them to ratify the agreement that was reached late last year.
QUESTION: What about Phil Gordon’s remarks that U.S. welcomed the verdict of Armenian Constitutional Court. Can you say that is official stance?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I’m not familiar with his remarks.
QUESTION: A couple things. On Ambassador Mitchell coming back, it seems like there were some positive sounds made, at least in the press, about what happened. I’m wondering if you guys here in the Department feel that anything has changed following this trip, and specifically this idea that perhaps starting talks with lower-level officials might be a way to kind of edge the door open?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I think there was a legal development today, and I’ll just see what the State Department responsibility is as part of that.
Regarding Senator Mitchell’s meetings, obviously they focused on relaunching negotiations as soon as possible. I mean, we’ve – and we’ve always, and for quite some time, have advocated that there will need to be a mix of approaches here – that you could have high-level, direct talks that establish a framework for the negotiations, that we might have parallel talks where the United States is engaged with both sides separately, and that – obviously, many of these issues are difficult and complex and would benefit from having low-level, direct talks where many of the details can be worked out. So any or all of these approaches will have to be part of a successful negotiation.
So we continue to work with the parties on how we can take steps, a variety of steps, to kind of work through these issues and make progress. But fundamentally, we still want to see both sides take the significant political step of formally returning for negotiations.
QUESTION: Sure. Two things: There was an election yesterday in Japan, a local election in Okinawa, where the base issue was quite a – was quite in focus. Does this change at all the U.S. position or the U.S. desire for speed in a decision on the Futenma base?
MR. CROWLEY: It really doesn’t. And I think Prime Minister Hatoyama publicly reaffirmed earlier today in Japan that his government will make the decision by the end of May, based on thorough review of the options that are now underway.
QUESTION: It really doesn’t what?
MR. CROWLEY: It doesn’t change – I mean – and we just noted that the prime minister of Japan said that the central government will be the one that makes that – this decision.
QUESTION: So you have no concerns about the result of this election?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, that is a matter for the people of Japan --
QUESTION: Well, I – yes, it’s – of course it’s a --
MR. CROWLEY: -- working with their government to – and they have a review underway.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
MR. CROWLEY: Say that again.
QUESTION: By the Tibetan government in exile that envoys would go to Beijing, if I’m not mistaken.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take it.
QUESTION: Sure. Sure.
QUESTION: Stuart Bowen, the U.S. Government’s special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, says the State Department has exercised weak oversight of Dyncorp International’s contract with the Iraqi police training program, and as a result, 2.5 billion in U.S. funds are vulnerable to waste and fraud. What’s your reaction to that?
MR. CROWLEY: The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement has made substantial improvements on the issues addressed in the report, which have been recognized in previous reports by the special inspector general. We do take note of the recommendation for additional in-country contract officer representatives, and we have been actively seeking additional staffing.
But from our standpoint, we have an intensive process of reviewing invoices. We only make provisional payments to the contractor after initially certifying invoices, and we insist on a hundred percent reconciliation of all invoices as part of this process. And all we can point to is that currently, we have a rejection rate of over 19 percent, meaning that from our standpoint, we are doing due diligence. But we’ll obviously work to see if those systems can be improved even more.
QUESTION: So do you say the audit is unfounded, or is there merit to the audit?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I don’t think that we agree with the characterization in that report, but we will continue to work with the IG on it.
QUESTION: The Japan issue – the election. How was your concern that the election decision in Nago City could influence on Hatoyama’s decision?
MR. CROWLEY: Just – I just answered that question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Right. But otherwise –
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:04 p.m.)
DPB # 12
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