1:14 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of you were with us in New York yesterday when the international community came together in a significant way to support Haiti’s short- and long-term recovery. There was $5.3 billion pledged for 2010 and 2011 to cover the immediate needs of Haiti, and then a total of $9.8 billion pledged towards reconstruction and the support of essential social services, governance, and broad-based sustainable development. Donors, of course, will be guided by the principles agreed upon earlier this year in Montreal. The recovery effort will be Haitian-led, inclusive, accountable and transparent, and this started yesterday as pledges were announced in real time, coordinated, results-oriented and sustainable.
The United States pledged $1.15 billion, and this will go towards reconstruction and multilateral debt relief. And we look forward to the establishment of the multi-donor trust fund at the World Bank and the formation of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission that will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Bellerive and former President Clinton.
We mentioned back in December our concern about the Cambodian Government returning 20 Uighur asylum-seekers to China, which contradicted earlier statements by the government that they would honor their international obligations by working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees regarding – to determine whether these individuals qualified as refugees. And we expressed our concern at the time. We have recently – on March 19th – informed the Cambodian Government that, as a consequence, we are suspending the provision of excess defense articles, including new shipments of trucks and trailers as a consequence of the government’s action.
QUESTION: But wait, can I just ask something about that?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me just do one more and then I’ll be with you.
And finally, we’ve released an announcement this afternoon that Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela will begin a weeklong trip to Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru next week, and we expect topics discussed will include security cooperation, social inclusion, economic competitiveness, democratic governance, and human rights.
QUESTION: Yeah. I think it was either – it’s April already, so maybe it was last month or the month before, I had asked about what the consequences the Cambodian Government thought --
MR. CROWLEY: Indeed. You did.
QUESTION: This is my answer?
MR. CROWLEY: This is an answer.
QUESTION: March 19th it was – they were told?
MR. CROWLEY: March 19th.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I just ask why it takes – took until April Fool’s Day to announce this?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) I – Matt, I was asked to mention this today and I did.
QUESTION: Okay right. All right. Is there a dollar amount on that?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I think it involves 200 vehicles and trailers that had been identified for shipment to Cambodia.
QUESTION: And this is – when you say – you called it excess military equipment?
MR. CROWLEY: It comes under a program called EDA, excess defensive articles, where items that are surplused to our military needs are provided to countries. And this is something that I think is important to Cambodia and obviously, as we said, there would be consequences for their failure to live up to the international obligations.
QUESTION: So in consequence to their actions, what – how would you characterize the seriousness of this diplomatically?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we have diplomatic relations with Cambodia. We have diplomatic relations with countries even though every action that they might take are – we do not agree with. So in this particular case, we indicated our displeasure. I mean, go back to December, we had the Secretary and Deputy Secretary had both personally called the ministry of foreign affairs to express our concern and the importance with – we attach to this issue. They failed to heed not only our call that they step up to their international obligations, but in fact, specific obligations they have as a country. And we said there would be consequences and this is a step in that direction.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There are some reports that a Lebanese TV’s personality who is – a psychic – is going to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia for allegedly practicing witchcraft. Now, given the fact that in your recent Human Rights Report you said that there have been some improvements in the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the fact that people of whatever type of religious or practices are being beheaded for their --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I have no knowledge of this case. We’ll be happy to look into it and provide a comment. Obviously, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, are central universal principles that we believe in. But I’ll take the question in terms of the facts of this case.
QUESTION: Right. You’re suggesting that psychics somehow are a religion --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just saying I will – we will --
QUESTION: Witchcraft is a religion.
MR. CROWLEY: -- take and evaluate – see what we know about this case.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. Government position on extrasensory powers?
MR. CROWLEY: This is April Fool’s Day isn’t it? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions, but I’ll ask them one at a time, okay?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The first one – and you can answer and then I’ll ask another one.
MR. CROWLEY: And we’ll have things ricocheting all over the room. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The first one is: We understand that Cheryl Mills had a meeting with a Cuban foreign minister on the sidelines of the Haiti meeting in New York yesterday. Can you tell us what they talked about?
MR. CROWLEY: They talked about Haiti. In particular, she did meet with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to ensure that our assistance is consistent with the priorities established by the Haitian Government. Cuba has volunteered, I think, in the significant assistance in the health sector, and they want to see – make sure that this assistance is implemented in a coordinated fashion. So it was a specific meeting about Cuba’s – the support that they wish to provide to Haiti.
QUESTION: So they didn’t touch on other bilateral Cuba-U.S. relations?
MR. CROWLEY: I think during the course of the conversation we brought up the issue of Alan Gross. That was a part of the conversation.
QUESTION: What is the current coordination on the ground between the U.S. and Cuba in terms of Haiti, in terms of the assistance?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. I mean, to the extent that we need to talk to any country about the nature of their assistance, we will be prepared to do so. I mean, obviously --
QUESTION: I’m not talking about talking, but are there, like, specific kind of USAID officials or workers or contractors or whatever working hand-in-glove with Cubans on the ground, do you know?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn't say that it’s hand-in-glove, but I wouldn't rule out that there have been pragmatic contacts on the ground in Port-au-Prince in terms of support that – I think Cuba has a hospital on the ground, if I’m not mistaken, and I can’t rule out that we’ve had contacts there, I mean, as we do on specific issues that are in our interest. So I wouldn't rule out that we have had specific conversations in the context of the provision of assistance to Haiti.
QUESTION: But you’re not – just one last one. You’re not averse to kind of working together on a project, are you?
MR. CROWLEY: I think it was former President Clinton that had one of the lines of the day yesterday in terms of saying that we don’t agree with Cuba and Venezuela on very much, but we all agree on the importance of assistance to Haiti.
QUESTION: On Cuba, sir. During this meeting, was the human rights situation and the fact that two new dissidents are on hunger strike brought up somehow?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know the extent – this was a very – I mean, we do have regular meetings with Cuba in the context of migration talks and specific issues, like postal services. When we do have discussions with Cuba, we always bring up the issue of human rights, we always bring up our concerns about prisoners who are held there. And in this particular case, we did. I’m aware of that the specific issue of Alan Gross came up. I just don’t know if the broader issues were touched on as well.
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, Scott Gration is in Sudan as we speak. He is – continues to meet with officials on implementation of the CPA and the upcoming elections. Our – we’re troubled by any decision that reduces the competitiveness and credibility of these elections, but the situation is very fluid, and Scott Gration is there and actively trying to determine more details about the decision by these opposition parties.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. feel that the election can go forward in any credible manner if the opposition parties don’t participate?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we have concerns about the credibility of the election. We want to see it as inclusive and competitive as possible. Scott is there trying to help work here in the home stretch as we get ready for elections coming up. I will tell you that there are lots of things going on at different levels, so even if one decision might represent a setback, there are lots of other things going on that we continue to encourage. But he is there expressly because we want to make sure that the elections that happen in Sudan are as inclusive, as competitive, and as a result, produce a government or governments that will work significantly towards a better future for Sudan.
QUESTION: Just one more on that. Would it be fair to say that he is encouraging the opposition parties to take part in the election?
MR. CROWLEY: I’d prefer not to characterize what the current situation is. He’s there trying to work through these issues. As we have more, we’ll continue to report it to you.
QUESTION: Why are you reluctant to characterize the situation when most of the opposition candidates are pulling out of an election?
MR. CROWLEY: He’s actively working on those – on these issues, so at this point, I think we – our goal is to produce as competitive an election as possible. We recognize that this is a difficult environment. These are complex and difficult issues. Sudan hasn’t done this in a while. But we’re aware of the issue. We’re looking into it. We’re working with the parties. We want to see full implementation to CPA. But at this particular – I just don’t want to specifically say that what might be occurring at one moment is necessarily going to be the definitive, final answer.
QUESTION: Same thing.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did he go sort of racing off when it appeared that the opposition or the Southern candidates --
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. I don’t know when – Scott left a few days ago. I think it was a reflection of our – I mean, it’s a reflection of the importance with which we attach this election as a major step towards the referendum next year. Getting this right will clearly provide a boost forward for Sudan, both North and South. I’m not sure that we expected this announcement, but clearly, Scott is there working with the parties and seeing what we can do to make sure that the election is as competitive as possible.
QUESTION: Speaking of elections, P.J., President Karzai has come out with some pretty strong accusations about fraud in the Afghan election and that it was all the foreigners’ fault and it had nothing to do with him and it didn’t have anything to do with the Afghans; it was all basically Galbraith and the French general who was in charge of the vote counting. Do you have any reaction to these –
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t seen those specific comments. I would say we have made our thoughts known in the past about the irregularities in the election. It was not a perfect election – there’s substantial evidence of irregularities. But it’s less about us. It really is more about what Karzai has to do to see in the eyes of his people and what they want to see for – in the future in terms of more effective governance at the national level and, in particular, more effective governance at the local level.
So obviously, we’ve had many conversations with President Karzai, most recently with the President’s trip to Afghanistan last week. And this is a vitally important issue. Karzai has to step forward, lead his government in terms of convincing the international community and the Afghan people that they are taking measurable steps to reduce corruption. Obviously, we continue to discuss with Afghanistan its election processes.
We’re cognizant of the fact that the Afghan parliament has stepped up and questioned a decision by President Karzai in terms of who will appoint how many individuals to the independent electoral commission. This is very important to Afghanistan’s future. We have to make sure that as Afghanistan goes forward – they’ve got important elections coming up later this year – that there is a credible process, there’s an independent body to execute and oversee the election results, that there’s significant monitoring both inside Afghanistan and from outside parties so that ultimately you see electoral results that are credible, that are legitimate, and that help advance good governance in Afghanistan. So President Karzai has said the right things to us starting with the promises that he made in his inaugural speech late last year, and we are going to continue to work with the Afghan Government and press the Afghan Government to deliver on those commitments.
QUESTION: One of the things he said was that the West – by which I presume he means the U.S. in particular – but in general, the West wants to see him weak or wants to see a weak Afghan president and wants to see a weak parliament. Do you accept that?
MR. CROWLEY: We do not accept that judgment. We want to see effective governance at all levels, at the national level and the government led by President Karzai. We are working to strengthen specific institutions and ministries. We have an accountability system in place. We’re going to deliver assistance through those ministries that are effective that we believe are well-led and are taking affirmative steps to deal with corruption. But we also want to see the emergence of stronger local governance. This is not a zero-sum calculation. The people want to see effective government. They want to see government that delivers services to the Afghan people. That is what we are interested in. That’s why we have the military force levels that we have to try to stabilize Afghanistan and we have made the civilian commitment to put in place specialists to help grow the capacity of the Afghan Government. So we want a strong Afghan Government at all levels. It’s not in anyone’s interests to see Afghanistan poorly led or weakly led in the future.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: On Iran and the sanctions and your discussions with P-5+1 political directors, I’m wondering – and the idea that China would be willing to talk about possible sanctions. Do you have a reasonable expectation that they’re ready to accept the idea of sanctions or are they just willing to consider it? I mean have we really moved or do you think you’re going to get into a process –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I understand a difference between those two.
QUESTION: Well, there’s a difference between, like, you’re ready to actually talk about specific sanctions. Do you think that China has come around to the idea of sanctions, or now they’re just not saying, “Absolutely, no,” they’re saying, “Well, we’re willing to consider”? I mean, I’m just trying to judge whether you – whether it’s really moved or they’re just kind of softening their absolute no.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, China’s position on sanctions in the abstract is well-known and it’s been a consistent position that China has held for a long time. That said, China has supported every sanctions regime in the past regarding Iran. And China has said clearly that it desires a diplomatic solution to this. So do we. We want the – we want to see Iran respond to the international community and it has failed to do so. So I think this reflects that China is responding to the same set of facts that we have been responding to, that there has been a significant effort by the international community – not just the United States, variety of countries – to engage Iran and to seek answers to the questions that we have raised, the questions raised by not only their statements about further construction in violation of their IAEA obligations, but also the revelation of the secret Qom facility which has no other explanation, has no civilian nuclear explanation whatsoever. So to the extent that the ongoing recalcitrance of China – of Iran, its unwillingness to come forward and engage in any significant way, China now recognizes, as we do, that part of this diplomatic effort, as the Secretary mentioned yesterday, is the continuing offer of engagement, but it’s also the fact that we are now at a point where we need to consider very specific steps that put pressure on the Iranian Government and demonstrate to them that there will be a consequence for their failure.
QUESTION: So – I’m sorry. What I’m asking is: Do you see this as you’re moving with China as well as the rest of the Security Council to negotiating specific sanctions that will be put in a resolution, or do you think that China is now just willing to talk about the idea of sanctions? Have you moved to actually checking your list and negotiating specific --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I – let me talk about the United States. We believe that we are at the point now where we have to have more earnest discussion about specific steps, what would concretely be in a potential Security Council resolution. And China has indicated a willingness to be a full participant as we go through the specifics of what would be in a resolution.
QUESTION: On the same subject, clearly, the visit of President Hu at the Nuclear Security Summit is a big deal for everybody. Will there be discussion of the Iran issue during those talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Of course. (Laughter.) The President, the Secretary, others will have bilateral meetings during the course of the Nuclear Security Conference that’ll come up early next – in the middle of next month. I am certain that there’ll be a range of issues discussed during these bilaterals, and Iran will be one of them.
QUESTION: Can you give me a general sense of how important President Hu’s decision to come to Washington is?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we welcome his decision. We have looked at the Nuclear Security Summit as a very important conference, and I think China’s participation at the highest possible level reflects China’s concern as well about nuclear security going – in the future.
QUESTION: Does the visit in any way signal that we’re over what’s been a slightly rocky patch in U.S.-China relations?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, that’s really a decision to ask China.
QUESTION: Why? Are you saying that China was responsible only for the rocky patch?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean, I think you should take this at face value. This is a very important conference coming up, a significant number of high – of presidents, prime ministers, kings will be attending. And I think the fact that China has decided to have President Hu Jintao attend reflects the important – their understanding of the importance of not only this meeting but these topics.
QUESTION: Have the Chinese been given any assurances that Hu won’t be embarrassed by being labeled a currency manipulator within days of arriving here?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the Nuclear Security Summit is about a vitally important set of issues regarding nonproliferation, and I think you should take this at face value.
QUESTION: Chinese officials won’t confirm what you just said, that they’re onboard with talking about new sanctions. Why would they say that? Are you confident that they’re onboard?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I understand the question.
QUESTION: Chinese officials won’t confirm that they’re even willing to negotiate a new round of sanctions, so what does that say to your confidence?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we are moving forward this path – on this path, and China is – I mean, China and the United States have the same strategic goal here. No one wants to see the emergence of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. We have had maybe differences and some of those differences remain in terms of how best to achieve that strategic objective. But I think the fact that China has indicated it’s willing to engage in the substance of this issue, we think is clearly a welcome step.
QUESTION: So you’re talking to them about specific sanctions that they’d agree to?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we’re at the point – the President’s laid out an ambitious goal to get this done as soon as possible, in a matter of weeks, not months. And so we are at the point where we’re going to begin to discuss in earnest very specific – the specific – the guts of a possible sanctions resolution. And China is now fully united in this process and we welcome that.
QUESTION: It took you – I don’t even remember, but I mean, somewhere between six months and a year to negotiate the last one, so you don’t really have an expectation that in two weeks you’re going to be able to negotiate such a --
MR. CROWLEY: We’re not – I – we – the President has said he wants to get this done as soon as possible, but I’m not aware that there’s a --
QUESTION: Do you think it reflects an accurate --
MR. CROWLEY: -- there’s a specific timetable.
QUESTION: Do you think that – I mean, I understand it’s an ambitious goal. But do you think that goal is grounded in reality, if history is any indicator?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we --
MR. CROWLEY: If you look at Foreign Minister Amorim’s statement yesterday, he said he welcomed the opportunity to talk to any country about these issues. And we will obviously have future discussions with Brazil and other members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Mr. Davutoglu, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, D.C. – there are some reports in Turkish press that he will be sent back to Washington next week. So it seems that Ankara is taking a step backwards after the telephone conversation between Secretary of State and Mr. --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we would welcome the return of the ambassador, but that is ultimately a decision for Turkey.
QUESTION: No, I wonder – I wonder if any – if Washington has a role in this position change of Ankara, and if any guarantees are given to Ankara about --
MR. CROWLEY: We have had a number of conversations with officials in Turkey. We have encouraged them to return the ambassador to Washington. We think it’s very important to have him here. But that is a decision for Turkey.
QUESTION: And was – one more follow-on question. Has any guarantees – or was it one of the topics that Mr. – president’s remarks which will be done on April 24th? Was it one of the topics in the phone conversation?
MR. CROWLEY: Which telephone conversation?
QUESTION: Between Secretary of State and Mr. Davutoglu, Turkish foreign minister.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we did have a fairly extensive readout of that call the day it happened – or day after it happened. It happened on a Sunday. We continue to talk to Turkey about the – not only the political issue here in the United States, but more importantly, steps that both Turkey and Armenia need to take in terms of normalization, fulfilling their mutual responsibilities under the protocol signed last year, and we continue to encourage them to take those important steps. But we were talking about all of these issues with the Secretary of State and the foreign minister.
MR. CROWLEY: He’s had his hearing, but that is – that’s really a decision for the Senate. We obviously want to see him in Syria as soon as possible.
MR. CROWLEY: Very complex issue. I think all I would say is that we are monitoring it. We are, as a general rule, against coups. We’re against violence. We want to see constitutional rule restored as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: As a general rule, you’re --
MR. CROWLEY: As a general rule.
QUESTION: -- you’re against coups?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s really bold.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Back to China and Iran for a second. So today, Saeed Jalili – what is his name – is in Beijing for meetings with, I think, Yang Jiechi. I was wondering if you’ve heard anything from Beijing about that. If so, if you can tell us – did you get a readout about that?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I would assume in some fashion, given our ongoing consultations with all of the members of the P-5+1, that China will report the results of that conversation. We certainly hope that Iran will listen to China and – in terms of resolving the issues that we continue to talk to Iran about.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: This Mr. Hwang, the high-level defector from North Korea, was in town yesterday and gave a talk and basically said that Kim Jong-il would give up his nuclear weapons in anyone’s dreams, that he would never give up his nuclear weapons, and that the only real way to change the course of the regime is to possibly isolate him. Like you shouldn’t – he said, obviously, you shouldn’t use military force. But he said you shouldn’t engage him either. He said that if you make him think that he’s not worthy of negotiating, then he’ll want to negotiate. I was wondering if you have any thoughts on that.
MR. CROWLEY: We have – our current approach that’s shared by all parties in the Six-Party process but one. We are engaging North Korea in a variety of ways. If Kim Jong-il wants to end his isolation, if he wants a better relationship with the United States and other countries around the world and the region, he has a clear choice.
QUESTION: Back to the Haiti donors conference just for a second. I’m still a little bit unclear – Prime Minister Bellervive made a very specific request in his opening remarks for $350 million in direct budget support for the Haitian Government, saying this was key to actually getting them able to start implementing all the things everyone wants them to do. And I – by the end of the conference, even President Preval didn’t seem very clear about whether or not that request for $350 million had been covered by all of these different – or any of these different pledges that have come in. And I’m just wondering if we have any clarity on that at this point.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – I think – obviously, we’re aware of the $350 billion – $350 million budget gap for Haiti. I don’t think we’ve made a decision on how to best close that gap.
QUESTION: Does the United States ever try the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il invite to the Washington, D.C. coming Nuclear Security Summit? Ever try then Kim Jong-il --
QUESTION: Did you invite Kim Jong-il --
QUESTION: -- invited to the D.C. Nuclear Security Summit?
MR. CROWLEY: I can – I’m going to go on a limb here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Why not?
MR. CROWLEY: Why not?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we will invite leaders to this summit who are committed to actually strengthening the nonproliferation regime around the world.
QUESTION: Well, I thought part of this whole engagement policy --
MR. CROWLEY: And North Korea is a serial proliferator. They have, as has been said, not yet made that fundamental decision to give up their nuclear program as the international community is demanding. That is in North Korea’s interest. It’s in the region’s interest. It’s in the broader international community’s interest. But North Korea has yet to show the seriousness of purpose that they are committed to the world’s nonproliferation agenda. In fact, they were (inaudible) parties to the NPT and withdrew.
So I don’t think we ever contemplated inviting North Korea to the NSS.
QUESTION: So what you’re saying though – so Ahmadinejad should be waiting by the mailbox for his invitation to show up?
MR. CROWLEY: I doubt it.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, I thought part of your whole engagement policy is to get these countries that you don’t agree with on various issues to --
MR. CROWLEY: And we are willing to engage North Korea, and we are willing to engage Iran. We have taken a step forward ourselves. We’ve offered meaningful engagement. The results have been episodic, as you have reported. But the countries that are coming to the Nuclear Security Summit are those who are committed to strengthening the nonproliferation regime rather than undercutting it.
QUESTION: Well, don’t you think the whole current nuclear and proliferation regime right now is about these two particular countries in particular?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, that’s true.
QUESTION: So don’t you --
MR. CROWLEY: They are --
QUESTION: So you don’t think they should be involved in these discussions?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there is a broad concern. It is about countries like North Korea and Iran, although I wouldn’t put the NSS strictly through that lens. It is about how do you keep nuclear material, nuclear knowledge secure, how you prevent it from getting into both state actors and non-state actors. It’s a broader agenda than, obviously, North Korea and Iran. But clearly, we are strengthening the nonproliferation regime expressly because of the irresponsible behavior of countries like Iran and North Korea.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:48 p.m.)
DPB # 48
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