1:09 p.m. ESTQUESTION:
Ryan Miller.MR. CROWLEY:
Ryan Miller. Great work. Michigan State Spartan, right?QUESTION:
Buffalo Sabre, more importantly.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we appreciate the donation of – the contribution of the Buffalo Sabre goalie to the bragging rights of the United States versus Canada, but we’re not declaring victory yet. There’s still a long, long way to go.
Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of announcements before taking your questions. The Secretary delivered a keynote this morning as the State Department celebrated Black History Month, paying special tribute to the contribution of Dr. Ralph Bunche, who worked intensively on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the late ‘40s, earning a Nobel Peace Prize in the process, for also working significantly towards the establishment of the United Nations and advancement of the Civil Rights Movement in this country.
This evening, Secretary Clinton will address the NATO Strategic Concept Seminar here in Washington. She will reflect on the need to update the common vision of the most successful alliance in history, one that has had influence far beyond the borders of its member states. But she will recognize that NATO needs to continue to adapt to new circumstances, whether that involves out-of-area operations in Iraq or
Afghanistan, combating piracy off the Horn of Africa, countering the missile threat in the Middle East, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or in the future cyber attacks and energy disruptions.
To succeed, NATO’s relationship with international institutions, global democracies, and other countries with overlapping interests will also need to evolve. Central to that is NATO’s relationship with Russia. She will reiterate that while Russia faces security challenges, NATO is not one of them. She will pledge again that NATO will keep its doors open to new members and encourage reform on the political as well as military side of the alliance.
The United States welcomes the announcement framework agreement – the announced framework agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Darfuri rebel Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, as a significant move towards formal negotiations in the AU/UN-led Darfur peace process. The agreed ceasefire between the Government of Sudan and JEM is an important first step towards reducing violence in Darfur and comes on the heels of important new agreements between the governments of Chad and Sudan to reduce tensions along their shared border. We encourage all parties to the conflict to continue working towards a comprehensive agreement that includes the other major armed movements and civil society representatives.
The United States commends this step by the Government of Sudan, along with the AU/UN mediation team and the Government of Qatar, and will continue to support all efforts to bring peace to Darfur. Furthermore, we acknowledge the substantial efforts of Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno and his government in facilitating this accord. And Special Envoy Scott Gration is currently in Doha meeting with the UN/AU mediation team and the parties as part of these formal negotiations.
Ambassador Steve Bosworth and Sung Kim will depart Washington tomorrow for consultations with our partners in the Six-Party process. They will make stops in Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo. I don’t have specific dates for their travel, where they will be at each stop. But as part of – and as part of our ongoing consultation, Secretary Clinton will host Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan here at the State Department on Friday. I’m sure we’ll have a press availability following that bilateral.
And finally, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is on his way to Germany, having completed a meeting with President Saakashvili and Defense Minister Akhalaia in – they – together they visited a national training center just outside of Tbilisi where Georgia’s 31st
infantry battalion has been training with U.S. Marines in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan. And yesterday, Ambassador Holbrooke was in Kazakhstan, where he met with Prime Minister Karim Masimov and State Secretary/Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev. But he’ll be back in Washington, I think, tomorrow.
Can I just ask briefly on Bosworth? There’s --MR. CROWLEY:
Any other planned – any other travel? I mean, that’s not all of the party – all of the partners are not there.MR. CROWLEY:
No, that’s --QUESTION:
No Russia?MR. CROWLEY:
North Korea?MR. CROWLEY:
Okay. I had something else.MR. CROWLEY:
Iran, so the rhetoric got ratcheted up quite a bit last week on the Secretary’s trip, among others, not just the U.S. Today, the Iranians say that they’re going to build two of these 10 new reactors inside mountaintops to protect them from attack. I’m just wondering (a) what your reaction to that is and (b) what’s happening on the sanctions front right now.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, as to any further enrichment activity, as we’ve made clear, Iran has more practical and sensible alternatives. We have the Tehran research reactor proposal still on the table. In a correspondence through the IAEA, the United States, France, and Russia have made clear that there are other ways in which Iran could purchase isotopes on the open international market to meet the humanitarian needs of its people.
So it is unfortunate that this is further evidence that Iran refuses to engage cooperatively and constructively with the IAEA. So in essence, adding more potential enrichment sites adds to the questions rather than resolves the questions that the international community has.
We continue to work closely with our partners in the P-5+1 process to identify potential targets for sanctions. And we will, I think, be advancing specific proposals to the UN in the coming weeks. QUESTION:
A follow-up on that?MR. CROWLEY:
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he thinks what’s needed here are direct and biting sanctions against the energy – Iran’s energy sector and that the UN Security Council should be bypassed. I guess individual countries should try and impose on their own if the UN doesn’t get its act together. MR. CROWLEY:
Well, those are not mutually exclusive alternatives. There are sanctions in place nationally. We think we’re – as the Secretary has said, we’re continuing to look at other steps that we can take both multilaterally and prospectively on a national basis. You had recently an announcement by the Department of Treasury regarding specific entities that we are continuing to focus on with respect to current sanctions.
But we obviously are looking at the full range of possibilities. We want to see effective sanctions that have the impact that we want to put pressure on Iran. And as the Secretary has said, we will be paying specific attention to the Revolutionary Guard Corps that is playing a more – a growing role in Iranian society and in the Iranian economy.
Can I go back to North Korea?MR. CROWLEY:
Thank you. Is there any possibility that Ambassador Bosworth and Sung Kim met with North Korean interlocutors in --MR. CROWLEY:
-- Beijing or other places? And --MR. CROWLEY:
They will be going to Beijing. I do not expect them to go to Pyongyang.QUESTION:
And U.S. has been waiting for North Korea signal that they are going to come back to Six-Party Talks. Has there been any change on this position from North Korea?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I think that’s one of the reasons we’re going to consult with our counterparts in Beijing, our counterparts in Korea and in Japan. In a couple of cases, there have been meetings recently with North Korean officials, and we’re going to be consulting to see where we think we stand in the process.QUESTION:
But there has been no decision made so far about resumption of Six-Party Talk or additional U.S.-North Korean --MR. CROWLEY:
Again, we are looking for a signal from North Korea, and we’re still waiting for that signal.QUESTION:
In Afghanistan this morning, or I guess daytime there, there was another airstrike that killed several dozen Afghan civilians. What’s the State Department’s reaction to it? And then, this is – there have been several in this new operation, several pretty high-profile attacks that have killed Afghan civilians. What is this doing to the overall U.S.-Afghan relations? How is it making it more difficult?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I think it’s a reflection of, first of all, of our refined strategy – that we are placing significant emphasis on reducing the impact of these operations on the Afghan population, which is not to say that we’re not going to make mistakes. In conflict, mistakes are made, or there are unfortunate impacts that could not have been anticipated. Our view is exactly General McChrystal’s view, as he made clear to President Karzai in apologizing for the tragic loss of civilian lives. And as NATO has indicated, it will be thoroughly investigated.
But everything is being done to minimize the potential loss of life as we continue to take back control of Helmand province and turn it over to Afghan sovereignty. That said, given – there is ongoing loss of life in Afghanistan, and much of that loss of life is the responsibility of the Taliban. I have yet to hear them apologize.
Have you been in touch with
the Netherlands Government about their future commitment to Afghanistan? Are you concerned that there might be a chain reaction here?MR. CROWLEY:
First of all, I’m not going to comment on internal Dutch politics. This was a decision for the Government of the Netherlands to make, and it was a decision that actually had been taken a couple of years ago. The Dutch are consulting with us and NATO commanders on next steps regarding the future of the Dutch role in Afghanistan. But for now, the Dutch remain in the lead in Uruzgan province and we appreciate their leadership and ongoing efforts. The Dutch have made a significant contribution to this operation and we value their close cooperation and ongoing participation.QUESTION:
The Pakistanis reported today that they had captured another Afghan Taliban leader near Peshawar. Do you have any information on that? MR. CROWLEY:
I don’t have any specific information on that, but obviously, if true, it continues to reflect the significant efforts that we have going on on both sides of the border, which is exactly what our strategy that the President laid out a year ago hoped to achieve. And through a concerted effort by both our Pakistani and Afghan allies, we’re making it much more difficult and reducing the space with which these insurgents can operate.
Yemen --MR. CROWLEY:
Come forward. (Laughter.) This is a good (inaudible).QUESTION:
(Inaudible) my tape recorder. Who’s representing the U.S. at the Yemen donors conference in Saudi Arabia? MR. CROWLEY:
Yeah. Well, let me – it’s not really a donors conference. It’s a GCC secretariat meeting on donor coordination in Yemen. And the chief operating officer of USAID Alonzo Fulgham will be representing the United States.
Sorry, just back to North Korea. Just a point of clarification: Can you say if there are any plans or any possibility that Ambassador Bosworth and Ambassador Sung Kim might meet North Koreans at any point in this trip? Or are you ruling it out all – off on the whole trip? MR. CROWLEY:
There are no plans.QUESTION:
I got two short ones.MR. CROWLEY:
Turkey. You have any concern at all about potential political instability in Turkey, given these arrests of alleged coup plotters and – over the past couple days, and the fact – and the central role that Turkey plays in what you call the most successful alliance in history?MR. CROWLEY:
It is the most successful alliance in history. That’s a fact. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
Is it? I don’t know.MR. CROWLEY:
The Hanseatic League might (inaudible). MR. CROWLEY:
But do you have any concerns at all about Turkey?MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, these issues in the evolution of politics and society in Turkey are not new. I don’t think we have any specific concerns. Obviously, any action taken should be in accord with Turkish law and should be transparent. But the Secretary in Qatar last week had a very detailed and successful meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan. We continue to work closely with Turkey on a variety of issues, from Middle East peace to the situation in Cyprus, to the situations in Iraq and Iran.QUESTION:
Yeah. It was a quite a meeting, I hear.MR. CROWLEY:
It was quite a meeting.QUESTION:
Whose account of what happened is correct? MR. CROWLEY:
(Laughter.) I don’t know the --QUESTION:
Yours or --MR. CROWLEY:
-- the ambassador’s? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, the ambassador expressed his view that he had a – we had a conflict of two important meetings. Both meetings ended up running long, which I think is a reflection of the importance of the issues that both the Secretary talked to Prime Minister Erdogan about and the Emir of Qatar. And these were two highly successful meetings. And whatever happened outside the door did not have an impact on the – on either meeting.QUESTION:
Wait, I got – I have one more, but I’ll --MR. CROWLEY:
-- gladly defer to anyone else. No?MR. CROWLEY:
(Inaudible) standing outside the door. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
Yeah. Remember back in December when the Cambodians repatriated the Uighur – forcibly repatriated those Uighurs? You said at the time that that would affect U.S.-Cambodian relations, and I’m curious now, two months on, how has it affected Cambodian-U.S. relations?MR. CROWLEY:
I’ll take the question.
Are you reassured by comments by the coup leaders in
Niger that they intend to lead the country back to democracy? Their timing is very undefined. MR. CROWLEY:
That’s right; their timing is undefined. We do note the public assurances by the Supreme Council for the Restoration for Democracy, for a speedy return of civilian rule to Niger. We support the efforts of ECOWAS, the African Union, and the United Nations to promote Niger’s speedy return to the rule of law, and together we will hold Niger to those public pledges. QUESTION:
Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
(The briefing was concluded at 1:27 p.m.)