2:09 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Sorry for the lateness of today’s briefing, but lots of bilaterals and lots of meetings today. To begin, welcome to the Department of State. The United States and the United Arab Emirates have a strong partnership and share a common vision for a secure, stable, and prosperous Middle East. And during the meeting today between Secretary of State Clinton and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, they talked about an array of regional issues, their – our joint commitment to comprehensive peace, and the common objective of achieving a two-state solution, and both countries and both leaders emphasized the need for the parties to resume negotiations as soon as possible.
They discussed the challenges posed by Iran’s increasingly disturbing and destabilizing actions, its failure to fulfill its international obligations, and the importance of working with the international community to address these issues. They talked about our joint efforts to stabilize and support Yemen. The Secretary expressed her gratitude for the generosity of the UAE in terms of assistance to Haiti and they talked also about the UAE’s progressive policies aimed at empowering women.
The Secretary --
QUESTION: Can I just ask on that? You know, if this is such a great partnership and everything, why they didn’t come out and tell us that themselves?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t answer that question. There was no media opportunity today as part of that meeting. It might be that they had a working lunch, so – noted.
The Secretary also met this morning with UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward. And they discussed the hard work that the parties are doing to ensure that devolution is achieved as agreed upon in Northern Ireland. And as you heard from the Secretary this morning, she condemned the act of violence today in Northern Ireland, and the fact that this was a clear effort to try to derail the devolutionary process under the Good Friday accord.
The Secretary also talked this morning with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for about 15 minutes. She emphasized to the foreign minister that our negotiators are close to reaching an agreement and encouraged Russia to continue to move ahead, push hard so we can reach an agreement in the next couple of weeks. They also talked about the prospect of getting together in the very near future as part of the Quartet to focus on the Middle East.
And with that, the Secretary will welcome to the Department of State on Friday Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. They will talk about the current status of – the prospect of negotiations, our bilateral relationship, our security commitment. I would expect they might also talk about the situation in Gaza.
And Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg left today for Israel, leading an interagency delegation that included Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy and Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence David Gompert and other representatives from the NSC and the State Department. He will be participating in the U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue, which demonstrates our continued commitment to Israeli security. And I’m sure they will also talk about our efforts, our joint efforts towards reaching comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
QUESTION: On that Lavrov call, you may have mentioned it, I just want to make – but I think I missed it if you did, which is the negotiators are close to reaching an agreement. This is START, right? This isn’t some other --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, I’m sorry. Yes, on START agreement, yes. So there are still some details to be worked out and we hope we can do that in the coming days.
QUESTION: P.J., on the – I’m sorry, go ahead. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: That’s okay.
QUESTION: On that score, we’ve been hearing this for weeks that we’re close to a decision – actually, months. What’s happening? Because it looks like all of a sudden, as we’re getting very, very close, the Russians are throwing up a lot of issues – missile defense, et cetera. I mean, has anybody ever thought of seriously --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Jill, I would challenge --
QUESTION: -- calling their bluff?
MR. CROWLEY: -- that there’s anything new in that. I mean, the issue of the relationship between offensive and defensive systems has been part of the discussion and the negotiation throughout. It’s not something that we – the START agreement, as we see it, is about offensive weapons. And I think we’re working through precisely how to register Russia’s concerns, but there are plenty of mechanism to do that within both the negotiation and the ultimate agreement.
QUESTION: But are you actually saying that they are not doing that, that they are not, all of a sudden, at the last minute, bringing up some – what the U.S. would consider --
MR. CROWLEY: I would just challenge the assumption that this is something new. This has been something that has been steadily discussed during the negotiation, and I think we’re looking at how not only do we arrive at the final language of the agreement, but then what are the appropriate mechanisms so that whatever issues that both sides have can be appropriately registered as part of this.
QUESTION: Could you just define – I’m sorry, just one last one – but then could you define exactly, again, what is the sticking point?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to do negotiations from here.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary initiate that call or did the Russians? And you’re saying that she urged the Russians to keep pressing hard. Does that reflect a sense in the State Department that they aren’t pressing as hard as the U.S. is?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I just think that given Jill’s point, we are at the point where we think that we can reach an agreement relatively quickly. And we are encouraging the Russian side to do its part.
QUESTION: Did they speak about Iran at all?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
QUESTION: All right. Well, even if they didn’t, I presume you’ve seen the Iranian response to the IAEA?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What do you think of it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s – it doesn’t contain anything new. We’ve heard this before. We think that the arrangement that we put on the table in Geneva is the right one. The Iranian response, in essence, is, in our view, a red herring. Under the arrangement that we had proposed, we would accept enriched fuel from Iran and reprocess it for – to make it suitable to the Tehran research reactor to meet the clear humanitarian need that Iran has.
Under the Iranian proposal, there would be an exchange, but that would require the international community to actually front its own fuel to satisfy Iranian need while Iran continues to violate its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.
So this response – the Iranian counterproposal is unacceptable, as we’ve made clear before. And we will continue to work within the IAEA, but also we will continue to consult from the international standpoint on appropriate next steps, including prospective sanctions.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – our policy envisions a two-track strategy. We have not closed the door to further engagement, but you actually have to have a willing partner to engage. The fact is Iran makes these series of statements day after day, week after week, but it refuses to come to the table and actually negotiate in good faith and address the concerns that the international community has.
In this sense, this issue is not new. We’ve had concerns about a failure of Iran to meet its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty for a number of years, has failed to really come forward and address the concerns that we all have. And with each passing time with the discovery of the Qom facility, which has no real place in a civilian nuclear program – if Iran says its programs are for civilian purposes, it needs to come forward and make that case to the international community. It is Iran’s failure to address legitimate concerns that Iran has had that has brought us to this point.
So we are certainly willing to continue to work on the engagement track, but there – as we’ve made clear, there will be ongoing consequences for Iran on the so-called pressure track.
QUESTION: Does that imply that the groundwork is now being laid to start any potential discussions of a sanctions framework?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are discussing, broadly speaking, with the P-5+1 and others, including China, what prospective next steps are available to us, what will be effective. And that process is ongoing, and I would expect that we would hopefully arrive at a point that is – where you’ve got the same kind of consensus internationally on steps to take towards Iran that we successfully undertook last year with respect to North Korea.
QUESTION: And how much – and my last one on this – how much longer is the U.S. willing to pursue this dual track before focusing solely on sanctions?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re – I’ll try it again. We’re not focused solely on sanctions. We have offered to engage directly in that spirit. We came to Geneva last year, put on the table a good-faith offer that would allow confidence to grow on both sides. And from that discussion, we had a preliminary agreement from Iran and it has walked back from that agreement. And it has failed to really seriously reengage and constructively work through these issues.
So it is, in fact, that point that has brought us to where we are still open to engagement, but we are clearly working on the pressure track more aggressively and consulting on prospective sanctions that we might introduce in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: Also on China, China’s Foreign Ministry today, for the first time apparently, explicitly rejected the accusation that it was a base for the Google hack attacks, calling this groundless. I’m wondering, do you accept that as an explanation? Where are we with the U.S. pressing for more information from China on the Google case?
MR. CROWLEY: We have asked for a thorough investigation. China is obviously in the best position to do that. I think we’ll continue to have further conversations with Iran . I don’t have an immediate reaction to that claim.
QUESTION: Why is China obviously in the best position to --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – actually, it is our perspective that individuals in China played a role in this. I think that continues to be our perspective and we will continue to have these conversations with China on this subject.
QUESTION: But I’m still wondering why China is best placed.
MR. CROWLEY: Because we – it’s our perspective that there were individuals inside China that did play a role in the intrusions.
QUESTION: But I thought the – forgive my technological ignorance, but I thought that the whole point of the cyber world was that you could be pretty much anywhere you are. Is it simply because these people are physically in China that they’re --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I will defer to others who have the same kind – I’m technologically challenged, as you are, Matt, but I think it is our perspective that the information that we have strongly suspects that individuals inside China played a role in this. And we will continue to work through these issues.
QUESTION: The FT says that U.S. officials have zeroed in on one particular individual who’s associated with the Chinese --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean --
QUESTION: Can you confirm that?
MR. CROWLEY: The investigation of this is not going on here at the State Department. I’ll defer to other agencies that might or might not want to talk about it.
QUESTION: P.J., do you have any information on this report about a secret coup among Turkish military commanders trying to bring down the government?
QUESTION: That’s essentially the answer you gave yesterday.
MR. CROWLEY: I know.
QUESTION: So nothing is – there’s – nothing has changed?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that we have any other perspective on that.
QUESTION: Same issue. Are you concerned for the future of the Turkish Government?
MR. CROWLEY: Do I what?
QUESTION: Are you concerned for the future of the Turkish Government? That is a question --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we’re – I mean, I think we value our relationship with Turkey, our interaction with the Turkish Government. As I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary had a successful bilateral with Prime Minister Erdogan just last week in Doha. And we will remain engaged with Turkey on a wide range of subjects.
MR. CROWLEY: He has departed for the region and he will be in Beijing tomorrow. He’ll be in Seoul on February 25 – which is what, Thursday – and he will be in Tokyo on Friday.
QUESTION: Okay. So he won’t be the one who’s coming back for the --
MR. CROWLEY: Sung Kim will be coming back for the bilateral with the foreign minister of Korea.
Let’s go – let’s keep – I suspect we still have one or two more questions on North Korea.
QUESTION: The Chinese Foreign Ministry said yesterday it supports bilateral contact between North Korea and the United States within the Six-Party framework. So do you have any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: You’re saying that China supports --
QUESTION: Bilateral contact between North Korea and the United States within the Six-Party framework.
MR. CROWLEY: I think we support that as well. The key to getting to that point is for North Korea to come back to the Six-Party process, which they’re struggling to do.
QUESTION: Do you think the statement has something to do with Ambassador Kim Kye Gwan’s report to --
MR. CROWLEY: As to interpreting statements by China on North Korea, I’ll defer to my colleagues in China. We are – as we’ve said many, many times, we are willing to engage in a broad discussion with North Korea inside the context of the Six-Party process on the full range of issues, as is every member of the Six-Party process. I mean, every country has its own bilateral issues with North Korea. That’s the value of being a part of the Six-Party process. It’s why we have encouraged North Korea to come back to the Six-Party process. And the decision remains theirs and the ball remains in their court.
QUESTION: May I?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. On Latin America, do you have any position or any comments regarding after this Rio meeting, Rio summit in Mexico, all the countries, the Latin American countries have a new initiative, a regional initiative without the presence of the United States and Canada. Do you want to comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm. Well, we think it’s a good thing when countries in the region come together to talk about how they can cooperate more effectively, and this can take place in many regional fora. And virtually all of the countries attending the summit are strong partners of the United States and we are working together with them on a broad range of initiatives. So – and we consider the meeting in Mexico as consistent with our goals for the hemisphere.
QUESTION: Does the --
QUESTION: Which ones – which ones are the strong partners of the United States?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Do you have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Yeah --
QUESTION: That’s a serious question.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I don’t have a list of who’s attending. If you want us to tick off a list of who’s attending and we’ll go good, bad, or indifferent, we can do that. (Laughter.)
What’s your follow-up question?
QUESTION: Any comment on the next trip of Secretary Clinton to the region? Could you confirm the countries she is going to visit and what will be the purpose of this visit?
MR. CROWLEY: I hope to have a – we have a meeting with the Secretary late this afternoon where we’ll nail down all of the details of the trip. I suspect we’ll announce it tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?
MR. CROWLEY: Which region? That region? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Latin America.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Southern hemisphere. The – what seems to be a little dispute right now over oil drilling north of the Falklands, or Malvinas, depending on where you come from. Does the U.S. have any concern about potential tension between London and Buenos Aires because of their history and dispute over those islands?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are cognizant of the issue and its history. I think we are neutral on the question of sovereignty. We do recognize the current UK administration of the island. What we encourage in this case is what we encourage in other areas where there are disputes, that this can only be resolved through good faith dialogue between those two countries.
QUESTION: Would the U.S. be willing to step in and be an arbiter should this discussion continue? Because there are a number of British companies that are interested in spending time, money, sending people down to do this kind of work.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Usually, the first step in arbitration is that the two countries will ask for a third party to be the mediator. If we ever got that kind of request from both sides, we would consider it.
QUESTION: There are some tensions also between Venezuela and Colombia. Would you say that the U.S. is also neutral in that case?
MR. CROWLEY: We would be asked to mediate in that case? (Laughter.) I suspect there might be probably one party that might object to that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: P.J., there’s a new report, apparently, on the National Counterterrorism Center – it comes out of the Project on National Security Reform – which is very critical of the State Department, saying it’s not participating, it’s not showing up for meetings, a victim of overlapping statutes and mandates, and they’re simply not getting enough input from the State Department. Do you know anything about that report?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not.
QUESTION: Can you find out anything or --
QUESTION: On the Quartet --
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: -- about that? Can you find out anything about it?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll see if we’ve seen the report.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: On the Quartet meeting, is there any specific date for this meeting? And --
MR. CROWLEY: I know – I think the Secretary and the foreign minister did discuss a prospective date. I think we have to negotiate with all of the parties, the EU, and the UN, before we would announce that.
QUESTION: One on the Lavrov call. Do you know if she brought up her proposals for NATO-Russia cooperation which she discussed in her speech yesterday?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not think so.
QUESTION: A release by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine has a statement claiming 100 refugees from the Al-Waleed camp that’s inside Iraq have left the country and will be resettled in the United States. Can you confirm that?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that number is correct. I think we’ve had several hundred Palestinians referred to us over a period of time. I think so far in this fiscal year, nine Palestinians from Iraq have arrived in the United States.
The basis for this program is that while you are familiar with the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East, known better under its acronym UNWRA, but Palestinians in Iraq are not covered by that program, but are the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
So we are working with the UN on this issue and we have had some Palestinians come to the United States, but not that large a number.
QUESTION: So no major influx of any refugees – Palestinian – to the U.S. within --
MR. CROWLEY: So far in this fiscal year, we’ve had nine.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is it correct that these – at least some of these people are going to Alaska?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know.
QUESTION: Could you check on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I sure can.
QUESTION: Because it would seem to be a bit of a geographic mistake to send them to – to send Palestinians who have been living in Iraq and then before, to Alaska.
MR. CROWLEY: So you don’t think that change of pace is appropriate – beautiful mountains?
QUESTION: I don’t know.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead, yeah.
QUESTION: I have a question on Cyprus and Turkey. Your ambassador in Turkey said that Turkey is a peaceful country, it doesn't invade its neighbors, it has security concerns in Cyprus and northern Iraq. Do you agree with his statement?
MR. CROWLEY: Who made that statement?
QUESTION: Your ambassador in Turkey.
MR. CROWLEY: Of course, I agree with that statement.
QUESTION: You agree that Turkey didn’t invade Cyprus? You changed USA’s judgment – changed the policy of --
MR. CROWLEY: We are focused forward. We’re not focused backward. There is a very constructive dialogue going on between Turkey and Greece, between the Turkish Cypriot community and the Greek Cypriot community, aided by the UN. We are pleased to be – to play a role in that. We’re focused on trying to bring this to a just conclusion. And I don’t think there’s any value in working back on the history of the last 35 years.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yesterday you said the U.S. welcomed the framework in which the government of Khartoum and the J-E-M, or JEM – I’m not sure how they refer to themselves – are going to be signing this deal in Doha.
MR. CROWLEY: And they did sign it today.
QUESTION: Yes. What does that mean now in terms of trying to hold Khartoum accountable for what this Administration and the previous administration agreed was a genocide in Darfur? What happens now?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we will continue to aggressively work with the various parties and with other regional governments that have a direct interest in Sudan and in Darfur. We’ll continue the great efforts of our special envoy, Scott Gration. He has made regular trips to the region expressly with this in mind, that once you have commitments from various parties, they have to live up to those commitments, they have to take affirmative steps. We’ve got very important milestones coming up in Sudan with the election in April, the referendum next January. There’s a lot of work that has to be done in the short term on the referendum. That will be a test run for what happens with the referendum and looking for credible results that reflect the will of the people of Sudan and Southern Sudan.
So Scott is in the region regularly, consulting broadly with his counterparts in key countries, but most importantly, talking to the parties themselves, the leaders themselves – absent one – and to make sure that we will – and so we will hold them accountable. So with this agreement, there are steps that both sides have agreed to take. There’s a ceasefire that we want to see take hold. There are still border disputes that we have to see resolved. There’s issues of how to share resources in the future. There’s a lot to do and that’s – but the progress that we’ve made is thanks to efforts of a lot of people, including the commitment of the President, the work of the Secretary, the work of Scott Gration and others who work on Africa policy together with our UN Ambassador Susan Rice.
QUESTION: But isn’t it one thing to talk about political legitimacy and another thing to talk about holding one leader or a group of leaders accountable for what people have said was perhaps whole-scale slaughter based on other bases?
MR. CROWLEY: You have two imperatives here. There are things that are going to happen in Sudan in the future, and those are things that are – that will be significant events in the future of the region. So we have to work with the parties on how are we going to hold the election in April, how are we going to hold the referendum in January, how are – if Southern Sudan, for example, chooses in that referendum for independence, how will that take place? What are going to be the relationships between North and South that we take for granted here in the United States, having peaceful borders with Canada and with Mexico? But for newly created countries, if you’re not careful, you sow the seeds of future conflict.
At the same time, we have been – have said always that we will hold people to account for their past actions. And we stand by that. But these are – but we have to both be advancing forward while making sure that in the long run, that there is true accountability for the horrible tragedy and tremendous loss of life that we’ve seen in Darfur.
QUESTION: Iceland? Iceland’s government says that it asked last week for a meeting with Secretary Clinton and they want her to intercede with the Dutch and the British on the Icesave issue. I’m wondering, is she going to take that meeting? Is that --
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s take those two points. First, on the Icesave dispute, we are not a party to that and we would refer to the three countries involved – Iceland, Britain, and the Netherlands. We are aware of the meeting request, but we have made no decision yet.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we obviously expressed our disappointment and we’re deeply disturbed that the Cambodian Government, in violation of its international obligations, forcibly removed 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China in December without the benefit of a credible process for determining their refugee status. We expect governments, including Cambodia, to uphold its international obligations, and this will affect our relationship with Cambodia as well as its international standing.
QUESTION: Well, that’s exactly word-for-word what you said back in December. I’m just – I’m wondering if there has been any actual effect.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, you will judge us over time. This is something --
QUESTION: Well, that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s been three months.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, all right. All right.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: So there’s no change? There hasn’t been any effect yet.
MR. CROWLEY: I would not say there’s been no effect.
QUESTION: Well, then, can you tell us --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean --
QUESTION: Can you quantify what the effect has been?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, I mean, we have expressed our disappointment and we will factor this into future decisions that we make about our relationship with Cambodia.
QUESTION: But it has not yet been a factor. It has not yet --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not willing to cede that point. I’m just saying that when we say there’s going to be effect, we mean what we say.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 p.m.)
DPB # 26
# # #
 Meant to say China.