1:27 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Continuing on, a few announcements before getting started with your questions. Secretary Clinton will meet this afternoon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Mayflower Hotel, following up on their discussions over the past two weeks and the prime minister’s meeting with George Mitchell yesterday. George Mitchell met with President Abbas earlier today as he works to keep proximity talks moving forward. He is en route back to Washington now.
The Secretary spoke this morning to AIPAC here in Washington. She stressed that the status quo is unsustainable for all sides. A two-state solution is the only viable path for Israel to remain both a democracy and a Jewish state. As the Secretary said, our focus is on getting the parties to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust, praising both sides when they show courage and giving our central role in the process being unequivocal when we disagree with actions on either side. She also reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future, and she also stressed that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States, to Israel, and to the international community.
The Secretary, tomorrow will participate in the Merida U.S.-Mexico High Level Consultative Group in Mexico. Merida is emblematic of the partnership between the United States and Mexico. It is grounded in the recognition of our shared responsibility for addressing challenges such as counternarcotics and the importance of building institutions, respecting rule of law, human rights, and trying to help create secure and prosperous societies on both sides of the border.
This afternoon, before she departs for Mexico, the Secretary will participate in a video teleconference with personnel from the Embassy and the consulates in Mexico. As many of you have traveled with the Secretary know, she normally, as part of her travel, does a meet and greet with local embassy or consulate staff. The schedule tomorrow does not allow that, so she will do a VTC this afternoon where she will reiterate our thanks for the personnel in Mexico for their service and their sacrifice, and assure them that we continue to work steadfastly on their security. She will express condolences to the families of those who were killed recently in Juarez, and she will reiterate that we are doing everything that we can to help not only with the investigation, but also with security improvements. The Mexican Government has increased protection for our Consulate as they continue along with U.S. authorities with the investigation.
Maria Otero, along with Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Esther Brimmer and Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs Reta Jo Lewis and others will participate later this week in the World Urban Forum, joining Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan in Rio de Janeiro. Rapid global urbanization is a phenomenon that requires the attention of the United States and all nations concerned about addressing the associated challenges. Experts say that two-thirds of the world population’s will live in cities by 2050, with most of these cities in the developing world. The United States is committed to working with the United Nations, donor nations, and national and local leaders to address the UN security challenges posed by rapid urbanization.
Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Sandy Vershbow will travel to Bahrain and Oman this week to lead the fifth round of the Gulf Security Dialogue. The Gulf Security Dialogue is the U.S. Government’s principal security coordination mechanism with the nations of the Gulf Coordination Council. The dialogue supports our enduring interest in the region, focusing on a wide-range of political and military issues, including shared strategic challenges in the wider region and enhancing partnerships in the area of security cooperation, counterterrorism, border security, nonproliferation, and maritime security.
QUESTION: What are the dates of that?
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s see, 23 and 24.
Assistant Secretary Bob Blake continues his travel through South Asia. He is in Afghanistan today visiting a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunduz. He also met with local officials there. He was in India on Saturday where he reviewed a wide range of bilateral issues with his Ministry of External Affairs counterpart and helped prepare for the U.S.-India strategic dialogue early this Summer. He also discussed regional issues in a meeting with Foreign Secretary Rao.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Why was the meeting moved to the Mayflower?
MR. CROWLEY: I think – I’m assuming at the request of the Israeli delegation.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, is there --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I – yeah.
QUESTION: It’s been played – it’s now – it’s gone from a meeting in the – a meeting here at the State Department with a photo-op in the Treaty Room to a closed event, basically, at the Mayflower.
MR. CROWLEY: Correct me if I’m wrong. I think there’s still a spray at the top.
MR. TONER: We’re trying to --
MR. CROWLEY: You’re trying to figure that out? All right. Matt, I learned about this less than 30 minutes ago.
MR. CROWLEY: So I’m --
QUESTION: Official photographer only, just so you know.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, we learned about it while we were sitting in here during the water briefing, which is the reason I left.
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: Can you – can we try and find out, is there some kind of problem? Do they not want to be seen together?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean --
QUESTION: Are things that bad?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know the reason for the change in venue.
QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t – you’ll concede that it doesn’t look particularly good when you have your – the leader of your top Mideast ally in town and a meeting that was supposed to have some kind of public atmosphere to it becomes closed.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, the prime minister – it’s usually by protocol, his choice of meeting site. We are set to welcome him here at the State Department. I don’t know the reason for the shift, but that is something that is an Israeli prerogative. And of course, this meeting this afternoon is a preliminary to the meeting at the White House tomorrow, and so I wouldn’t read anything into the change in venue nor the change in media coverage.
QUESTION: You wouldn’t read anything into it at all?
MR. CROWLEY: I would not.
QUESTION: No? Even given the last-minute nature of it?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I can only say it for the third time – as to why the shift was made, I do not know.
QUESTION: But it does have an almost symbolic effect because you have --
MR. CROWLEY: Come on, Jill.
QUESTION: -- Secretary Clinton going to see the prime minister after essentially not getting what she wanted out of him in the discussions, and certainly, you know, there’s a stalemate. He’s not backing down. She’s not backing down.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s a presumption behind your question --
QUESTION: On the settlements. On the settlements.
MR. CROWLEY: -- that I wouldn't necessarily share. I mean, this is an ongoing process. Our – the reason for the call two weeks ago was to follow-up on the announcement that happened while the Vice President was in Israel. We do not use the term “condemnation” lightly. The Secretary laid out for the prime minister the concerns that we have, outlined some specific steps that she thought it was important for him to take. As the Secretary indicated in her speech today, the prime minister has responded, and she views that as a positive development. And just as George Mitchell met with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, the Secretary will continue our dialogue today, the President tomorrow, as we continue to look for ways in which we move the proximity talks forward. This is an ongoing process, and so I wouldn't suggest that we have particular concerns at this point. Our task in front of us is to get the parties into the proximity talks and to the direct negotiation and towards a comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION: But is it correct to say that he has not backed down on what the United States wanted on settlements? I mean, he --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the specifics. The Secretary made a request of him. He has been responsive to her requests. And we continue our conversation with him.
QUESTION: You’re saying not to – if you’re saying not to read anything into it, then you can give us an explanation --
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: -- a very simple explanation, I take it, pretty quickly. I mean, you haven’t given us an explanation for why the venue has been changed and the press coverage.
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t give you something I don’t have.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you will be able to give it to us, I assume, if it – if there’s nothing to read into it.
MR. CROWLEY: I – if there’s something different than just simply the prime minister asked that the meeting be shifted to the Mayflower, I will let you know.
QUESTION: I was wondering – was the text of the Secretary’s address this morning to AIPAC communicated to the Israelis and to the prime minister before she made the address? Did they have that on hand before --
MR. CROWLEY: I have no idea.
QUESTION: So you don’t know whether or not they were surprised by what was in it? That was – I mean, basically, did they know it was coming?
MR. CROWLEY: We didn’t clear the speech with them, if that’s what you’re asking.
QUESTION: What do you expect from today and tomorrow’s meetings after Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to freeze settlements in East Jerusalem?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, Michel, this is an ongoing process. We have raised our concerns. We have said clearly what the U.S. position is and we will continue the conversation. Our goal here is to create a climate of trust, push both sides to provide confidence-building measures that give momentum – for momentum to the proximity talks. We recognize the importance of these complex issues. And our bottom line is Jerusalem is a final status issue; the sooner we get into formal negotiations, the sooner we can address the specific issue, reach – make progress, and hopefully, reach a successful peace agreement.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject? As far as this U.S.-Pakistan’s Strategic Dialogue is concerned, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is here in the State Department and she met with the Secretary. We don’t have much about between their – what took place, what happened, really. But before meeting the Secretary here, she told the groups of think tanks at Wilson Center that a very blunt warning to Pakistan that Pakistan must do more as far as if they want to continue dialogue between India and Pakistan to stop terrorizing India across the border. Do you have any idea of what went here in the building between the two, Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary of India?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there – the secretary did join Under Secretary Bill Burns recently in a meeting that was charting the way forward on the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. I think we are satisfied with the level of engagement that we have across a wide-range of issues with the Indian Government. We’ll have a similar conversation with Pakistan this week on a wide range of issues from agriculture, water, and energy, economic development and finance, defense and security, social issues, and public diplomacy. We are broadening and deepening our relationship with both India and Pakistan, and we certainly are looking for ways in which we can encourage – continue to encourage the two countries to increase their dialogue as well.
QUESTION: A different issue but in the same region. It was a follow-up to the question asked last week. Pakistan and Iran signed a gas deal pipeline last week. Are you supportive of a gas pipeline between the two countries?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this is a decision for Pakistan to make. Our concerns about the role that Iran plays in the region and beyond is well-known. We continue a wide range of discussions not only in the region but around the world in terms of the nature of future economic transactions between Pakistan and Iran, and we’ll continue that conversation.
QUESTION: Would this come up during the Strategic Dialogue on Wednesday?
MR. CROWLEY: It could, sure.
QUESTION: And secondly, in Afghanistan, Afghanistan President had a peace talks with Hizb-e-Islamic leaders yesterday. They have links with al-Qaida. How do you see the peace talks with these leaders translating?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, these are primarily issues between Afghanistan and insurgent groups as part of the reintegration and reconciliation process. We do support the Afghan Government’s interest in reaching out to members of these insurgent groups. Our concern, shared by Afghanistan, is that they cease support for insurgency, live in accordance with the Afghan constitution, renounce violence, and have no ties to al-Qaida or terrorist organizations. If they are – any group that is willing to accede to those conditions can play a role in Afghan’s future – Afghanistan’s future.
QUESTION: P.J., just back on the Mideast again, this would appear to be the second time that the United States has backed down on settlements. You had back in September a similar thing, the U.S. pushing that and then a backdown. And now, what can you tell us that would convince us that this was not a sign of the U.S.’s inability to convince Israel that it should freeze those settlements, at least in East Jerusalem?
MR. CROWLEY: I would challenge the assumption for – this is a dynamic process. So notwithstanding public statements that have been made – and we certainly understand that the Government of Israel has a different view of these issues than we do – and we will continue this conversation. I think we have conveyed successfully to the Netanyahu government that these things are important, it’s important to the Palestinians, it’s important to the region; they are directly related to our ability to create confidence in the process that we’re starting to move forward within, and that the Government of Israel has to take responsibility for and get control of this process so that we do not see these kinds of announcements in the future and we – and that they will have the obvious impact on the process. So our goal is to move the process forward. In moving the process forward, both sides have to avoid the kinds of announcements, actions that will inhibit further progress.
QUESTION: P.J., though, it’s not just that you have a different view than the Government of Israel does on this. The entire world has a different view than the Government of Israel does on this issue. I mean, the Europeans came out today and condemned it. I don’t think there’s another – with the exception of the two or three South Pacific islands that vote with the U.S. against resolutions condemning Israel, I can’t think of any other country that is actually – that actually holds the same view that Israel does on settlements in East Jerusalem.
When it is going to be time to put your money where your mouth is on this and do something beyond complain and carp about it, that will really get through to the Israelis --
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: -- the fact that they are incredibly isolated on this position.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are doing exactly what we think is necessary at this time. We want to see the parties get into formal negotiations where these kinds of issues can be put on the table, wrestled with, and hopefully resolved. The sooner, the better. We’ve made that clear. So – and that is – that’s exactly why we raised our concerns publicly. That’s exactly why George Mitchell went – was in the region yesterday. It’s exactly why the Secretary and the President will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu today and tomorrow.
The sooner we get into that formal negotiation, the sooner we can see a resolution to these issues as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. Absent a formal negotiation, it’s quite unlikely that these issues are going to be resolved just by posturing phone calls or meetings. It’s the formal negotiation that’s going to enable the parties to actually wrestle with this and find an equitable resolution. And our position has been clear – the sooner we can create the conditions for a formal negotiation to begin, the better. And that’s exactly what we’re doing and will continue to do today.
QUESTION: What was the purpose of Senator Mitchell’s trip, the latest one? And what did that – what did he achieve?
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t had a readout from him. He was in Moscow last week as part of the Quartet meeting. Our goal is to move the proximity talks forward. And we were encouraged by the support that we received last week in the Quartet statement. They were very supportive of the proximity talks. They were very supportive of our broad goals. And everyone understands the bottom line here is getting the parties from where they are today to a formal negotiation. And we recognize that an essential element of doing that is to have the right atmosphere that includes making sure that the parties are taking constructive steps that move the process forward and avoiding negative steps that impede progress.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a particular comment on that. We have, though our friends, the Swedes, had a couple of meetings with the individual who is being detained. There is no Privacy Act waiver, so we can’t provide any specific information on him. We are concerned about his health and welfare. We are obviously concerned about a – whatever legal process he might face. We have concerns about – traditionally within North Korea about the lack of transparency in their judicial processes. We will continue through the Embassy – the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to make sure that he has appropriate representation should North Korea follow through with any legal proceeding.
And I mean, we’re obviously – we are always grateful for the work that Sweden does on our behalf as our protecting power, and we will continue to encourage his release.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Last time when Robert Park entered North Korea, North Korea just released him without any trial. But this time, North Korea announced a trial. So do you have additional concerns in this case?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, our primary concern is, obviously, we want our U.S. citizen back. We want to be sure that to the extent that there’s a suggestion that he has broken North Korean law, that he be given the appropriate counsel and have a fair legal proceeding. And we continue to press for appropriate consular access, full rights under North Korean law, but most importantly, we want to make sure that as soon as possible he is returned to the United States.
QUESTION: What are the charges on him? Is it just illegal entry?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, since we have to – we have to go through our protecting power. I’m not aware that we’ve been advised of any charges at this point. We’ve seen the reports. We’re going to follow up. But we have not had consular access to the individual in several days.
QUESTION: Do you see this trial as political?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s – we’re not aware that there is a trial at this point.
QUESTION: If there was one --
MR. CROWLEY: But should there be one, we would hope that he – it’s a fair proceeding, transparent proceeding, he has access to appropriate counsel.
QUESTION: P.J., what are the chances of getting a fair trial, a transparent trial, in North Korea? Can you just --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not a North Korean legal expert.
QUESTION: Well, the Human Rights Reports just came out the other day.
MR. CROWLEY: We have – as I stated, we have great concern about the lack of transparency in North Korea overall, and certainly lack of transparency based on our past experience with legal proceedings involving U.S. citizens.
QUESTION: Last one (inaudible) some Japanese press have reported that China has proposed a preparatory meeting to the Six-Party Talks which, it seems at this time, all six members will be attending, including the U.S. and North Korea. Can you confirm that you’ve received some kind of notice of a preparatory meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take that question.
QUESTION: One more on China. I know there’s widespread expectation that Google is going to announce its decision on whether or not to leave the China market. I know when they made their first announcement in January, they gave the State Department a couple days of heads up. I’m wondering if you’ve received any communication from Google on this, if they’ve told you what they plan to do, and if the State Department takes any position on the wisdom of withdrawing from the China market should that be their decision.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we are aware that there’s strong indications of an announcement by Google this afternoon. And, as we have said throughout this process, this is a decision for Google to make.
QUESTION: And does strong indications of that come directly from Google to you?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m – I’m not going to comment on whether we know about the – about what Google is going to say. Let’s wait for the announcement and we’ll talk afterwards.
QUESTION: Speaking of announcements, START?
MR. CROWLEY: No change from Friday. As the Secretary said with high-level Russian officials, we are close. Choose your own analogy. The Secretary had one. Foreign Minister Lavrov had one about being close to the finish line. The teams continue their hard work and we’re making progress. We’re down to what we think are small details. As the Secretary said on Friday, we think that we’ve resolved all of the major issues in the START negotiation and we look forward to reaching agreement, but we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: Paper said North Korea leader Kim Jong-il will visit China later this month. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: We wish him safe travels, and I hope when he arrives in Beijing he’ll announce that Korea – North Korea is willing to come back to the Six-Party process and take affirmative action – steps towards denuclearization.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Japan is suppose to meet Secretary Clinton --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Japan is supposed to meet Secretary Clinton on March 29th, I believe. Is that going to be --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have anything to announce at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)
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