2:17 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Thanks, guys. Just to continue, a couple of announcements before taking your questions. This morning, we had Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitrios Droutsas here to see both Secretary Clinton and Deputy Secretary Steinberg. They covered a range of issues of mutual concern between the United States and Greece, including developments in the Balkans, Cyprus, and other regional issues. And this afternoon, Secretary Clinton will meet Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. He’s the latest senior Iraqi official to visit Washington, part of our ongoing regular contacts with Iraqi leaders.
We’re going to invite you to get up a little early tomorrow. We have a number of briefings tomorrow. The first one will occur here at 9:45 with a return engagement with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke. I think when they were here prior to their respective trips to Afghanistan, they said they would come back and kind of report on what they saw. And so we’ll have them back.
And likewise, tomorrow, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, Director of the Office of Monitoring and Combating Trafficking In Persons, will provide a preview of the Administration’s interagency anti-trafficking meeting that will happen here at the State Department tomorrow afternoon.
QUESTION: What time?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re saying that it will be about 12:30. I think the meeting that the Secretary will chair will happen at 2 o’clock.
QUESTION: Can we start with a small thing that you addressed the other – that came up yesterday? Apparently, European Union members are considering cancelling their U.S.-EU summit because President Obama does not want to – does not plan to attend, and I guess there’s not much point in having a summit if you can’t have the top official there. Is the Administration giving any consideration to – or taking any complaints from – is the Administration giving any consideration to reversing the decision, and are you taking complaints from your European partners about this?
MR. CROWLEY: We are in contact with the EU and others on this issue. Obviously, we value the close cooperation that we have with the EU and the United States on a range of issues from Afghanistan to the global economy and climate change. And leaders at all levels do get together on a regular basis to talk through these issues. Regarding the – when the next U.S.-EU summit will occur, I think that is still a matter of discussion between the United States and the EU. But as to involving the President, we are still working through the President’s travel schedule.
QUESTION: When you say it’s still a matter of discussion, I mean – so it’s not going to be in Madrid in May?
MR. CROWLEY: I think there are no plans for the President to travel to Spain this spring.
QUESTION: P.J., when you said that you’re in contact with the EU and others on this issue, what others? And who else has been --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, just to recall, we’re – in light of the Lisbon treaty, we’re going through – Europe is going through some adjustments in terms of the processes through which U.S.-EU summits occur. Up until recently, they would occur on six-month intervals, as I recall, with one meeting in Europe and one meeting here. And that was part of – the foundation of that was the rotating presidency within the EU. Now you have a new structure regarding not only the rotating EU presidency; you’ve got an EU Council president, you’ve got a European Commission president. So Europe itself is reassessing how these meetings are going to be – when these meetings are going to be held.
QUESTION: Well, who are the others? I’m sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: And – well, you have EU Council --
QUESTION: Are you consulting the Turks about this?
MR. CROWLEY: -- President Herman Van Rompuy, you’ve got European Commissioner --
QUESTION: But they’re all Europeans, though.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, I understand that, but there is a question – it’s primarily a question for Europe.
QUESTION: You seem to be suggesting that Europe has gone back to the way it was back in the ‘70s when there was – so you don’t know who to deal with now.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m saying that we are working through this just as Europeans themselves are working through this when you have a future EU-U.S. summit meeting – who will host it and where will it be held. And so this is something that Europe is working through. We’re working with them. Obviously, there will be summit meetings in the future, but as to when that occurs, we’re still working those details.
QUESTION: Well, has the relationship taken a turn for the complex?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we value our close and effective working relationship not only in Brussels, but in other capitals, and when we will – we have some things to announce, we’ll tell you.
QUESTION: Well, right. Well, that’s fair enough, but I mean, are you struggling to figure out what this new hierarchy is and how you’re going to --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think we’re struggling at all. We’re at a juncture where the structure has changed, and so the meeting structure is not only at the leader level, but at the ministerial level. All of this is kind of being reassessed in light of architectural changes in Europe.
QUESTION: So is it problematic?
MR. CROWLEY: Not at all.
QUESTION: Is it not worth meeting them at the presidential level? I mean, it seems to be that’s what the President is saying.
MR. CROWLEY: It is, and we will. But as to when that meeting will occur and where it’ll occur, those are issues that we’re currently discussing with our European partners.
QUESTION: And to go back to my original question, you said you were in touch with the EU. Are they complaining about the President’s decision?
MR. CROWLEY: We read the papers. Obviously, there’s been some disappointment expressed by the Government of Spain, and we understand that and we’ll be working with them on that.
QUESTION: And they’re conveying that to you all directly too, though, right? They’re not just communicating through the newspapers?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure --
QUESTION: They’re not calling up, saying, “I’m overjoyed that the President will not bother to come to Madrid in May,” right?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, they – we are in touch with them directly.
QUESTION: Just to go back to the orphan thing real quick, do you have the latest number for today of how many have actually gone? It was 578 yesterday.
MR. CROWLEY: No. I think actually – I think 578 – I think there were 44 that --
QUESTION: Forty-four --
MR. CROWLEY: -- processed and awaiting transportation.
MR. CROWLEY: As I recall, when --
QUESTION: That’s in addition, 44 in addition.
MR. CROWLEY: So 578 have actually been transported. Another 44 have been processed and are awaiting transportation.
QUESTION: And then how many --
MR. CROWLEY: As I recall, it is a – it’s a – as I recall, when we first – when the earthquake first occurred, we estimated there were perhaps 800, give or take – a soft number that were in the pipeline at the time of the earthquake. So I think that gives you kind of a sense of the ongoing population.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you have a sort of casualty update or does that remain the same?
MR. CROWLEY: The number of confirmed American fatalities has risen to 79 – 75 private citizens, four U.S. Government official that we’ve talked about before.
QUESTION: And do you have an unconfirmed number?
MR. CROWLEY: Still looking in the range of 20.
MR. CROWLEY: I think the White House has indicated that the President plans to meet with the Dalai Lama, as American presidents have over the years. And I will defer to my colleagues at the White House as to when that meeting will take place.
QUESTION: Can you describe for us what steps, if any, the Administration is taking to try to ensure that the multiple recent irritants – irritants is actually a weak word – in the relationship, notably Google, Taiwan arms sales, and the upcoming meeting for the President with the Dalai Lama, does not – Iran, there’s another one; thank you, Matt – does not derail the broader relationship. Can you give us any tangible evidence of efforts that you’re making to prevent these from hurting the wider relationship?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, for the most part, these are issues that we have engaged with China steadily through a number of years. The Chinese have made clear their views regarding meetings with the Dalai Lama, regarding arms sales to Taiwan, and I think what we’re clearly indicating is that we will continue to follow our national interest just as we would expect China to follow its national interest.
We continue to have a broad and deep relationship with China. If you look at the strategic and economic dialogue, it has become a key platform through which we engage at high levels across the respective governments on a range of issues – political, economic, and security related. So we will continue to do that. I would expect that just as the Secretary hosted her Chinese counterparts, along with Treasury Secretary Geithner and others last summer, we look forward to that same level of engagement sometime later this year.
But on a range of issues, we interact and cooperate with China, from counterterrorism and law enforcement, scientific and technical cooperation, health, people-to-people exchanges, and so forth. Now, through that, do we have issues that crop up from time to time? Absolutely. You have two of the most powerful nations on earth, and our interests coincide in many areas and our interests collide occasionally in a handful of those. And we work through them and will continue to work through them, through the kind of ongoing dialogue that has characterized our interaction with China since the Obama Administration came to office.
QUESTION: Just so we’re clear, I mean, my question was whether you could point to any tangible things that you are trying to do now to make sure that those areas where your interests collide do not interfere with the rest of the relationship.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. And --
QUESTION: And what I’m trying to understand is whether you are actually reaching out or doing anything special now, or perhaps not and it really is just business as usual and --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and we do what we always do. If you look back on each of these issues, we’ve had very recent conversations with Chinese officials here in Washington, in Beijing, and in other locations. So we are engaged directly with China on issues from North Korea and Iran. We’ve had multiple sessions with Chinese officials, most recently last week in London with the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Yang, going over a range of issues, including our concerns about cyber issues. The Chinese have obviously communicated to us their concerns about issues such as Taiwan and the Dalai Lama. So we will continue this dialogue and we expect that we’ll work through these issues, as we have in the past.
QUESTION: Does Washington consider the apparent threat of economic sanctions or boycotting of products by certain U.S. companies as some sort of escalating annoyance on Beijing’s part?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, as we said when we heard that from our Chinese friends, we regret that they have announced that step. We will be in discussion with them about how they plan to follow through on that, if they do. And our economic relationship is vitally important. It is broad and deep. And we would hate to see steps taken that would interfere with commerce that obviously benefits our people and the Chinese people and much of the region.
QUESTION: Forgive my ignorance. Has this kind of threat come before from Beijing?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it – if I recall, there was a – similar steps taken in 2008. They might not have been as public as they were in this case.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: You just used the phrase that Assistant Secretary Campbell is very fond of using over and over and over, which is “Chinese friends.” How friendly are they, actually, right now?
MR. CROWLEY: He also is very fond of the word “colleagues,” and “interlocutors.”
QUESTION: He uses that with the Japanese, not with the Chinese. So what exactly is going on here? This is – I mean, I – do you really consider them to be friends?
MR. CROWLEY: I would just say that what is going on here is the same kind of thing that’s been going on at various times. You have a global power – two global powers. And this is a reflection of the fact that our – we have – we share many interests. We do not look at all issues in the same way. But a lot depends on your perspective. Are there a lot of balls in the air today that perhaps might not have been there four to six months ago? Fair enough.
On the other hand, if you step back 20 years or so, our relationship is remarkably stable. It has broadened significantly during the course of the 1990s and this past decade as well. So a lot of this might be in the eye of the beholder, but I think that you’re talking about arguably the most important bilateral relationship in the world and --
QUESTION: How close – how close are you to getting them onboard with the Iran sanctions?
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to talk directly with China and our other interlocutors on the P-5+1. I think we have communicated very forcefully to China that this is an issue that is not as important to them just as much as it’s important to us and to others in the region. And we do not have the same view of the urgency of the situation. We probably do not, at this point, have the same view regarding the steps that we think are necessary at this particular time, but that’s why we’re having this ongoing engagement as we did in New York recently, as we will in the upcoming days when our P-5+1 political directors have a chance to consult again.
QUESTION: And how close are --
QUESTION: P.J. can --
QUESTION: How close are you to getting them – is this about China?
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. Speaking of that, it appears that there’s kind of a new tone coming out from the Secretary on the Iran sanctions. She was much more overt the other day in suggesting, lecturing to the Chinese about what they should do and how they should see it more long term. What explains that change of tone?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that – what explains that tone is precisely where we think we are in this process. We spent much of 2009 signaling to Iran that we were prepared to engage on the nuclear issue, but on a broader range of issues. For a variety of reasons, Iran has not been able to respond appropriately – or constructively to our approach. And together with our international partners, given our shared concern about the trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program, we’re at that stage, as the Secretary said last week in London, where, regrettably, we have to look at – more significantly at the pressure track because the engagement track has not yielded the results that we had hoped for.
QUESTION: So is she frustrated with the Chinese?
MR. CROWLEY: I think she’s frustrated with the Iranians’ response and its – their unwillingness or inability to engage us seriously on the nuclear issue and on other regional issues. So we are in discussion with the P-5+1 members, all of them, as well as with other countries as we look to possible pressure points that we can add to make clear to Iran that its unwillingness to come forward and address our nuclear concerns will have a cost.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied that the Russians are fully involved with you now?
MR. CROWLEY: The Russians are fully involved. They have always been fully involved. But I --
QUESTION: I mean, the sanctions --
MR. CROWLEY: No. We – as, again as you saw not only in London last week with Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov, but in the multiple meetings that have occurred between President Obama and President Medvedev, you’ve seen a significant shift in the Russian position. And I think we have a shared understanding of where we are in the process and we have significant engagement going on with Russia, just as we have with the other members of the P-5+1, beginning the process now of sharing ideas on where we need to go. We’re not – but this is a process that’s going to take some time.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic to Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: P.J., there’s been reports of U.S. interference in Iraq’s decision to bar about 450 candidates from the upcoming March elections, and I believe Ambassador Chris Hill has made some statements yesterday. Officially, what is the U.S. position about disqualifying Baath candidates?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we – this is an Iraqi process. We are not in any way, shape, or form, interfering in the Iraqi political process. We’ve been steadfastly supporting the Iraqi political process. Obviously, as Ambassador Hill said yesterday, this has to be seen by the Iraqi people as an inclusive process and one that allows Iraq to continue its remarkable political progress. There’s a lot at stake in Iraq on March 7. We’ve expressed our concerns that a process that appears to the Iraqi people or to a segment of Iraqi society to exclude viable candidates from running for office and participating in the Iraqi political process has – creates the risk that the result of the election will not be seen as valid, as credible, and that can have potential ramifications for Iraq long term.
So we are saying the same thing to Iraq today that we have in past years: Have an effective political process, an inclusive political process, one that gives all segments of Iraqi society an opportunity to contribute to Iraq’s future. And that’s the message that we will continue to – and I’m sure that’s the message that the Secretary will deliver when she meets with the Iraqi vice president this afternoon.
QUESTION: Some politicians, some Iraqi politicians, have distinguished between “Baathists” – quote, unquote – proper and Saddamists or those who are loyal to the party of Saddam Hussein during his regime and were instrumental in carrying out his policies. Does the U.S. share that same distinction?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, this is the Iraqi-led process. It was an Iraqi commission that made these judgments. There is an appeals process that is underway for these various candidates. It’s not for the United States to dictate any of this to Iraq; we’re not going to do it. But what we are simply saying is that at the result of this process for those candidates who do stand for election on March 7th, that they have to be part of an inclusive political process that the Iraqi people can believe in and they can support the government that comes out of this political election.
QUESTION: Finally, if I could just add one last question.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: It’s just that some are saying that because of this restriction, which is almost exclusively targeting Sunnis, it’s done in favor to – it favors Shia candidates. Do you think this is true?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s not for – it’s not what we think. It’s ultimately what the Iraqi people think. Our concern is simply not to go through a list and decide that this person falls on this side, this person falls on that side. It is really about making sure that you have an inclusive process, and to the extent that there is an adjudication of which candidates are judged to be viable in this process, it should be transparent so that ultimately, those candidates who do stand for election in early March, that everyone in Iraq can point to and say that they have equal opportunity of running, winning, and then together, form a government that will serve the interests of all Iraqi citizens.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: I know that from the military standpoint, you can’t talk about reports of apparent Predator drone attacks in North Waziristan today. But has the U.S. heard from Islamabad, given its distaste for alleged U.S. Predator drone attacks in North Waziristan in the past?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I understand the question.
QUESTION: There are reports that there have been at least 10 Predator drone attacks in North Waziristan, perhaps dozens have been injured, at least 10 insurgents have been killed. Has Washington heard from Islamabad in terms of this is violating Pakistani sovereignty or anything of that sort?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me --
QUESTION: I tried to frame it away from the DOD question.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me just simply say that we have very close collaboration with Pakistan on our shared struggle in combating extremism that exists in the tribal areas and through other parts of Pakistan. And we have senior officials who meet with their Pakistani counterparts on a regular basis on the military side and the civilian side. And from the Secretary’s visit there last fall, I think there is a shared understanding of not only the struggle that we face together, but the appropriate efforts on each side to diminish this threat to Pakistan and to the region and to other countries, including the United States.
So we talk to Pakistan every day at one level or another, either at the level of our ambassador or here in Washington, about this shared responsibility.
QUESTION: Does that – would it be too much to say that that’s an implied tacit acceptance on Islamabad’s part that Washington will do what it judges necessary in dealing with Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida?
MR. CROWLEY: I would challenge – I would – first of all, this is not what Washington is doing alone. This is what Washington is doing to help support the Government of Pakistan in its struggle. And I would simply say there is a shared understanding of the steps that need to be taken to ultimately help secure Pakistan and the region.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Greek Visa Waiver Program? (Inaudible) told us that the U.S. Government is in the final stages of the decision process and you hope to conclude the process soon. Do you have any idea when the process is going to be concluded? And also, can you tell us why it takes so long?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm, okay. Let me take those – there is no particular timeline, but we are committed to getting Greece into the Visa Waiver Program. There are a number of eligibility requirements that the program sets forth, and we acknowledge the hard work that the governments of Greece and the United States have done together. And we are – hard to characterize where we are in the process, but we are committed to getting Greece into the program as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Any readout on the – today’s meeting between the Secretary and --
MR. CROWLEY: At the start of the meeting, I basically said there were meetings with the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary Steinberg on a full range of bilateral and regional issues, including the Balkans, Cyprus, and other issues.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
QUESTION: And Visa Waiver?
MR. CROWLEY: And Visa Waiver.
QUESTION: Did the issue of the Greek Government’s fiscal problems and financial problems come up in either of those meetings?
MR. CROWLEY: Good question. Don’t know. I’ll find out.
QUESTION: Can you – could you take that?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Could I ask you another one on Pakistan? The five Virginia men who were picked up by the Pakistani Government are making allegations that they were tortured by Pakistani law enforcement and they – we have video of them screaming in English, “We’ve been tortured by the Pakistanis,” in the last 24 hours. Do you have anything more on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not. We have had regular consular access to these five individuals, but beyond that, I’m not aware of that allegation.
QUESTION: Are they all American citizens? We had a question about whether they were all --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And when was the time you had consular access?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Because – well, the last time you did, were they in good condition?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, and I’ll get you a date.
QUESTION: And the other thing is if you could check on whether they made allegations to you during the consular access about alleged torture.
MR. CROWLEY: There are Privacy Act considerations here. But to the extent that we can comment on that, we will.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:44 p.m.)
DPB # 17
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