1:30 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Sorry for the delay. There’s a lot going on today. Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. I’ve got several things to talk about before taking your questions.
The Secretary departed just a bit ago for Prague, where she will join President Obama and President Medvedev in the signing ceremony for the new START treaty tomorrow. She is accompanied by Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security; Phil Gordon, our Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs; and she will be joined in Prague by our able Under Secretary for Political Affairs Bill Burns and our chief negotiator for the new START treaty, Assistant Secretary for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Rose Gottemoeller.
Today, I think – have we put out the statement on the World Health Day yet? Okay, you’ve seen a statement by Secretary Clinton commemorating World Health Day. This year’s theme is “Urbanization and Health: Urban Health Matters.” The rapid rise in the number of people living in cities will be among the top global health issues of the 21st century. The WHO estimates that 6 out of every 10 people will be city dwellers by 2030, rising to 7 of 10 by 2050. In many cases, especially in the developing world, the speed of urbanization has outpaced the ability of governments to build and maintain essential health, water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure and provide basic services.
Likewise, I think there’s a statement that we’ll be putting out, if not already, from the Secretary on the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. Beginning today, senior Polish and Russian leaders are participating in ceremonies commemorating this anniversary of the mass murder in the Katyn forest 70 years ago. It is a painful reminder of the tragedy of Europe’s recent past. The meeting of the current generation of Polish and Russian leaders on that spot is a sign of a much better present and the hope for an increasingly bright and peaceful future. We welcome the strengthening of the Russian-Polish relationship that this mutual tribute symbolizes.
Moving to the Middle East, we are deeply concerned about the arrests of Egyptians under the emergency law. The Government of Egypt must uphold the rights of all people to express their political views peacefully and to ensure due process. The United States believes that all individuals should be allowed to exercise freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The people of Egypt should be able to participate in the political process and ultimately determine who will run and win Egypt’s upcoming elections.
In Sudan, Special Envoy Scott Gration remains there engaged in active discussions with all parties and government officials, urging them to take the necessary steps to increase the transparency and credibility of the upcoming elections. Special Envoy Gration continues to work with the parties to address outstanding issues surrounding the elections. We are following these events very closely. In the past few days, have seen many developments with respect to the upcoming elections. We emphasize that the situation remains fluid and the facts on the ground will continue to change in the coming days. By all accounts, elections are moving forward. We expect them to begin in the next week. There have been a number of logistical challenges getting materials in place. But with the help of the UN and others, significant progress is being made.
On the political front, as you know, the SPLM decided yesterday not to participate in elections in the North. Other parties are still considering their participation. We have pointed out the troubling aspects of these elections and we will continue to point out problems going forward. But we view these elections as an important step in the implementation of the CPA. And immediately after these elections, the parties should be moving on to preparations necessary for the Abyei and Southern Sudan referenda in January 2011.
In Africa, we welcome the expeditious confirmation and swearing in of the Nigerian Federal Executive Council. It is a hallmark of Nigeria’s democracy that such a transition can occur in an orderly and peaceful manner, and we look forward to working with the ministers, including Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia, on critical bilateral issues, including election reform, anti-corruption, sectarian violence, and economic development. And as you saw yesterday, Secretary Clinton and Nigerian Secretary to the Government of the Federation Yayale Ahmed inaugurated the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission.
Turning to this hemisphere, Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela continues his travel, is in Bogota today, where he met with Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva, Minister of Interior and Justice Fabio Valencia Cossio, as well as representatives from a number of Colombian human rights organizations. This morning, he delivered remarks at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota and later today, will participate in the World Economic Forum in Cartagena. Yesterday, in Ecuador, he met with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as well as Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino to discuss a range of bilateral issues.
And finally, before taking your questions, clearly we are monitoring very closely the situation in Bishkek regarding these protests. We are deeply concerned about reports of civil disturbances and possible loss of life. We deplore the violence and encourage full investigation and accountability in any incidents of death or mistreatment. We have reached out to government and civil society leaders to urge calm, nonviolence, and respect for the rights of citizens, especially under emergency situations. We urge all parties to show respect for the rule of law and resolve differences in a peaceful, orderly, and legal manner. We steadfastly uphold the integrity of the Kyrgyz Republic and continue our firm support for the people of Kyrgyzstan.
With that, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, on that, what do you make of the opposition going on television and saying that they’ve formed their own government? Is that problematic – something that’s problematic for you?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are continuing to monitor the circumstances. I believe we continue to think the government remains in power, but – and I’ll anticipate one question. Can we – there have been reports of loss of life, particularly involving the interior minister. We are not at this point able to confirm that.
But we will be continuing, through our Ambassador Gfoeller in Bishkek, to be in contact with the Kyrgyz Government as well before --
QUESTION: Is there any concern about the Manas base?
MR. CROWLEY: As I understand it, right now the transit center at the Manas airport is functioning normally. We’ve put out a Warden Message regarding our own Embassy personnel and all Embassy personnel remain accounted for.
QUESTION: Well, can you be more – can you say – well, what does that message say?
MR. CROWLEY: It just – it expresses concern about – to steer clear of demonstrations. But we – the Warden Message just was to reach out to the American community, and all of our personnel are accounted for.
QUESTION: Were the demonstrations in the neighborhood of the Embassy or other American installations?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have that kind of clarity, Charley.
QUESTION: Can you say specifically what information leads you to think that the government is still in power, what that’s based on and why?
MR. CROWLEY: We have no indication that the government has ceased to function. I mean, we are in contact with the government, and, obviously, the situation is difficult. But I’m not – to the extent that there are claims that the government has fallen, we don’t have that information.
QUESTION: You mentioned just a moment ago that the transit facility at Manas is still up and running. Do you expect that you’re going to diminish any of your operations there? Are you concerned that if things get worse, you may have to do so?
MR. CROWLEY: Right now, I don’t think that there’s any – it’s an important facility connected to our Afghan operations and is functioning normally.
QUESTION: I mean, can you tell anything about the status of the Embassy? Is it going to be open tomorrow? How is it going to be functioning?
MR. CROWLEY: Good – I mean, right now, as far as I know, the Embassy is functioning normally. But obviously, that will depend a little bit on the situation outside the gate.
QUESTION: Move on?
MR. CROWLEY: Charlie.
QUESTION: Yeah, also on that, can you be any more specific about how we’re in touch with the government, whether the ambassador has spoken with any official? If so, at what level? Is this the foreign ministry? Is it the president? Is it – is this by email? I mean, what kind of contact have we had?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say. I assume it’s by phone, but I’ve got relatively little information. I would say Foreign Minister Sarbayev and Maxim Bakiyev, the son of the president, they are actually on their way to the United States. We expected to hold annual bilateral consultations with Kyrgyzstan tomorrow. We have postponed those consultations for obvious reasons, but I expect that while the foreign minister is here, we’ll have some meetings with him here in Washington.
QUESTION: This was pre-planned?
MR. CROWLEY: Pre-planned. I mean, they’re literally still in the air coming here from --
QUESTION: Are you sure about that? They haven’t turned around?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a fair question. As far as I know, they will arrive here and we expect probably we’ll have meetings with them while they’re here.
QUESTION: Who are they meeting with?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we (inaudible) going to have extensive bilateral consultations with them. Those – I’ll – I don’t have information, but we’ll – I’m sure involving Assistant Secretary Bob Blake – but I think we’ll use that opportunity to consult with them on the situation in Bishkek.
QUESTION: No, can we go back – you said it was with the foreign minister and the son of the president?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, who is responsible for international development?
QUESTION: And so you can’t – but going back to Charlie’s question is, there’s all these reports of people who have resigned, have left the capital, they’re dead, we don’t know. It sounds like total chaos. How can you be sure that that government is still in control?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think we – notwithstanding current demonstrations, notwithstanding intrusions into various government buildings, we believe that the government continues to function. I can’t tell you we know that because of A, B, C, D, and E. We have – our able ambassador there is in touch with the government. I don’t know how. I assume it’s in a variety of ways. We are reaching out to the government. We’re reaching out to civil society. We’re doing what we can to help them work through this. But as to reports that the government has fallen, we have no information to verify that.
QUESTION: And the U.S. supports the government? They’re not supporting the opposition that’s stepping in, claiming that they already are taking into their own hands the government?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there is a sitting government. We work with that sitting government. We have – as we’ve outlined in various reports, including the Human Rights Report, we have concerns about issues, intimidation by the government, corruption within the government. We want to see Kyrgyzstan evolve, just as we do other countries in the region.
But that said, there is a sitting government. We work closely with that government. We are allied with that government in terms of its support for international operations in Afghanistan. But we identify with the concerns that the people of Kyrgyzstan have about their future. But obviously, as we said, their concerns should be a matter for peaceful dialogue, as opposed to violent demonstration.
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: The ever-avuncular Bernard Kouchner says there’s going to be a P-5+1 ambassadors meeting tomorrow in New York and that the Chinese will attend. Is that correct?
MR. CROWLEY: I would expect discussions in coming days. I’m not here to announce any particular meeting. We’ve got an ongoing process. It will involve discussions among P-5+1 political directors in capitals. It will involve activity at the UN. For example, the Secretary, while she’s in Prague, will – I expect will have a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and others. I’m sure that Iran will be a subject of discussion there as well as next week in various bilaterals that the President and the Secretary have on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit. So there’s a lot going on here, but I’m not going to sit here and advertise every single meeting that takes place.
QUESTION: Well, he seemed to.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, fine.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, is it correct or not? Are they going to be meeting? And at what level? Are they going to be talking about --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to comment on any particular meeting. I mean, we expect to have discussions in coming days, including here in --
QUESTION: Well, last week, your ambassador to the United Nations went on television and loudly proclaimed the success of how they – you had gotten the Chinese back on. And now, all of a sudden, you’re not willing to talk about the follow-up to that agreement?
MR. CROWLEY: No, I said I expect that there will be discussions in the coming days, including in New York. But I just want to caution you that as we’re into this phase where we’re working on some of the specific issues, we’re not going to comment on every single meeting that happens, whether it’s --
QUESTION: Are you worried that the Chinese would get spooked and not go if you talk about it?
MR. CROWLEY: No, not at all.
QUESTION: P.J., are you concerned that this tension with Karzai could affect the bottom line on the ground militarily in Afghanistan? Is this a distraction? Does it embolden the enemy in any way?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think so. We’ve – we’re committed to this partnership. There’s too much at stake – Afghan lives, American lives, coalition partners. There’s shared vital interests in this struggle. We share President Karzai’s desire to lead Afghanistan to greater sovereignty and we support the goals that he has laid out from his inaugural speech to today. So we’re working with the government on security, creating jobs, generating economic growth, and delivering effective and accountable governance for the Afghan people. To the extent that we have differences with President Karzai, we’ll work through them constructively and in a spirit of the long-term partnership that we’ve established with Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Has Secretary Clinton weighed in on whether or not to cancel this May visit?
MR. CROWLEY: The visit is still on and there’s been no change.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Ambassador – former Ambassador Galbraith was on television making some pretty direct --
MR. CROWLEY: Outrageous accusations?
QUESTION: I’ll leave you to characterize that. Does --
MR. CROWLEY: I will.
QUESTION: -- the U.S. Government have any reason to believe that President Karzai is like, hiding out in the basement of the palace doing bong hits or, you know, something worse? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: He is the president of Afghanistan. He’s been significantly engaged with us on a regular basis. The Secretary talked to him Friday. Ambassador Eikenberry talked to him on Friday. He was with General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry over the weekend. We have no information to support the charges that Peter Galbraith has leveled.
QUESTION: P.J., just to follow up, what major differences do you have? You say you have differences with him. And also, if you can confirm he’s threatening, according to the reports, that if you don’t listen to him, he will join Taliban.
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t seen a particular transcript of that. I’ll leave that description of that comment, if he had said it, to the president. I mean, as I just said a minute ago, this is a shared struggle. We have vital interests in the region. That’s why we’re there. That’s why we’re expending significant resources, both in terms of the lives of our soldiers and the investment that we’re making in Afghanistan. Eventually, we want to, working with Afghanistan, secure Afghanistan, help it develop, and then turn over responsibility to an effective Afghan Government.
Along the way, will we see eye to eye on every step? No, we don’t. And where we have concerns, we’ll respectfully engage the government – not just the president, but others – and work through these in a spirit of respect and partnership.
QUESTION: But what he’s trying to say, which he said that if you don’t listen – what he has in mind, what he’s trying to say? And also, at the same time, are you in touch with all your allies within NATO on this issue?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we’re in touch with our NATO allies every day. And Afghanistan is vitally important to not only the United States, but other countries in the region and more globally. We have the same strategic goals. We have the same objectives as the Afghan Government does. We want to see it develop. We want to see it take the lead. But we recognize that Afghanistan tragically is one of the poorest countries on earth, and for a period of time, Afghanistan is going to need all the help that the United States and the international community can provide.
In doing that, obviously, there’s tension over how to best do that. We are working with the Afghan central government, we’re working with – to develop a more effective government at the local level, and we’ll continue to do that. So we value our partnership and where we have bumps in the road, we’ll manage them as they go along.
QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of the differences, the issues you have with the Karzai government? What are the issues and differences --
MR. CROWLEY: I think probably in some cases, it’s not so much the – it’s the pace and – but we want to see the Afghan Government emerge, take a more aggressive leadership role. We’re working to build up the capacity within specific ministries. Obviously, in doing so, accountability is going to be very important to us; make sure that the resources that we provide are well and effectively spent.
That does create tension in doing so, but we have our own interests there, and not in all cases will they be identical to Afghan interests. We understand that. I mean, we are a foreign power on Afghan soil. That is something that can create issues on the ground. And we will work through these as we go forward.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Galbraith’s comments --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- but apart from the drug allegation, he talked about the president being – “flighty” perhaps is a nice word for it. Does the U.S. Government have any concerns about Karzai’s stability, his mental state, or his seeming erratic behavior of late?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
MR. CROWLEY: None.
QUESTION: So his – everything that’s been said from this podium and the White House in the last few days about – concern about his comments is without merit?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, in the recent past, there were questions that some of the world had about some of our leaders. Look, we understand that. We found some --
MR. CROWLEY: Look, let me --
QUESTION: Who would those leaders be? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Let me – let me --
QUESTION: Well, you opened the door.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I don’t remember --
MR. CROWLEY: Did we – I mean, as we have said for a couple of days here, we have concerns about some of the things he said, just as I think that probably President Karzai and others may take issue with some of the things that are said in this country, whether said within the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, or wherever. And we do understand that there is a political process that has emerged in Afghanistan – that’s a good thing – and that politicians in Afghanistan and around the world sometimes will feel a need to say things of importance to their own population and that may cause some discomfort.
But he is the president of Afghanistan. He’s a partner. We work very closely with him. The Secretary had a very constructive conversation with him last week. We expect he will be coming to Washington next month. And we’ll continue to work on our joint shared interests --
QUESTION: But you don’t --
MR. CROWLEY: -- and work through issues as they occur.
QUESTION: So you don’t share Galbraith’s opinion --
MR. CROWLEY: We don’t.
QUESTION: -- of --
MR. CROWLEY: We don’t.
QUESTION: In any way?
MR. CROWLEY: He – look, he is the president of Afghanistan and he is a figure that we respect and that we are working closely with to see the emergence of an effective government that – at the national level. And we will continue to work with others in Afghanistan on effective government at the provincial and local level.
QUESTION: Secretary has trust and faith in President Karzai?
MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary has a very good relationship with President Karzai. They have the ability to talk to each other. And they went through various issues on Friday and I think she feels very comfortable with the relationship that she has with the president.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been advised not to use terms such as “Islamic radicalism” when referring to the enemy? Apparently, a new national security strategy seeks to remove those terms from --
MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware of any specific directive. Beyond that, what are you referring to?
QUESTION: Well, there’s an AP story out today – “Barack Obama’s advisor planned to remove terms such as `Islamic radicalism’ from a document outlining national security strategy,” and they’re trying --
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: They (inaudible) insensitive, inciteful terms that they’re going to steer away from.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would think it is also not a reflection of the struggle that we face. I mean, we do confront a global movement of terrorists, violent extremists. Not all of the – not all of them are Islamic. I think it would be a mistake to say that this is about one part of the world or one community. We oppose people who employ violence for political purposes regardless of where they are. And al-Qaida is working hard to extend its network to all corners of the world, including here in the United States.
So I think terminology is important, but part of our strategy going forward is to combat violent extremism in all of its forms. And that will involve working closely with Muslim communities around the world, but it will also involve working more broadly for – against any movement working with our partners around the world that threatens democratic institutions.
MR. CROWLEY: We respect the right of freedom of expression. However, forcibly entering government buildings is not an appropriate means of protest. Everyone has the right of assembly and to protest peacefully, but we hope that differences can be resolved through democratic institutions and not through violence.
QUESTION: Why – can you explain why there’s a difference in language there on entering government buildings than there was with Kyrgyzstan?
MR. CROWLEY: I think I said almost the same thing with respect to Kyrgyzstan.
QUESTION: Did you? (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: India and China – India’s foreign minister in China these days and they have decided to set up a hotline between the prime ministers of two countries. How do you see the relationship between the two Asian neighbors from a U.S. perspective?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we value dialogue, particularly in Asia. But this is a matter between the governments of China and India. But we certainly think that any mechanism that allows two important countries – that are neighbors – of – and vitally important to global security and the economy – should have appropriate mechanisms to communicate whenever they feel the need.
QUESTION: And next --
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: And next week, you are having a Nuclear Security Summit in which more than 40 countries are coming here. What role do you visualize for India in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? India is not part of NPT, you know.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, although I think India will play an important role, both in the National Security Summit next week as well as the NPT Review Conference in May, we think that, as the Nuclear Posture Review reflected on its release yesterday, we are less concerned about the exchange of nuclear weapons among states. We’re more concerned about how we keep nuclear technology and know-how out of the hands of outlier states and rogue elements.
And India will have an important role to play in – both in terms of reinforcing and strengthening the Nonproliferation Treaty, but also demonstrating, as it is itself, how it can both protect nuclear technology, but – while also allowing the growth of civilian nuclear capacity.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to break any new ground here. I think various U.S. leaders have expressed confidence in the security of the Pakistani weapons. I’m not going to go any further than that.
QUESTION: P.J., apparently, the North Koreans convicted an American of, I think, unspecified crimes, sentenced him to hard labor. Have you been formally told about this? Do you know what this guy actually was convicted of, et cetera?
MR. CROWLEY: There were representatives from the Swedish Embassy, which is our protecting power. They did attend the trial, so we are aware of what has taken place. We continue to seek, through the Swedish Embassy, access – consular access to the American citizen. The last time that that was granted was March 17th.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on – again, what this – what the offense is?
MR. CROWLEY: Beyond what the Swedish protecting power has told us, I don’t think we have any particular insight. We continue to believe that he should be granted amnesty and immediately released.
QUESTION: What have they told you about –what did the Swedes tell you about the charges, for example?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we are familiar with the basics of the trial, but beyond that, we have – we don’t have any --
QUESTION: What are the basics of the trial? I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not --
QUESTION: Can you tell us what those are?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t go any further. I don’t have any – I mean, we’ve been in touch with the Swedes. They have told us what’s transpired within the trial. Beyond that, I’ve got no particular --
QUESTION: Can you say why you won’t say that?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Can you say why you won’t elaborate?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I think the North Koreans have detailed – he’s been convicted of unspecified charges, and I don’t know that we have any particular insight beyond what was – what has happened in the hearing.
QUESTION: Then --
MR. CROWLEY: Look, I’ll take the question as to whether we have any greater specificity about his charges. I don’t have anything in my book.
QUESTION: Okay. And then my other question about – is that the North Koreans have released his name. I was curious if you could confirm that as --
MR. CROWLEY: We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.
QUESTION: Well, that answers that.
QUESTION: P.J., just a technical question here. Today – them being in the courtroom doesn’t count as a consular visit?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: So that has to be --
MR. CROWLEY: No, I mean, they monitored the trial. As far as I know, they did not have any particular dialogue with the individual while the trial was taking place.
QUESTION: What’s the update on Senator Mitchell’s efforts with the Israelis and the Palestinians? Because there is an article in the Post today saying the President is considering a peace plan to replace the approach of step-by-step that Senator Mitchell is working through.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the holiday period is over. We are in touch with the parties. We want to get them into negotiations as quickly as possible. As we’ve said many times, this is the only way that agreements can be reached that end the conflict. As to the column today, as we’ve said many times, we’re prepared to play an active role once the parties get in negotiations. But beyond that, I’ve got no particular comment.
I would steer you away from the idea that we are – we’re going to try to, at this point, impose a particular view on the parties. We ultimately believe that getting into negotiations where they will address the core issues, we can help them, as we have done many times in past negotiations, where we can offer ideas on how to bridge differences, we’re prepared to do that. But our focus right now is getting them into the proximity talks, into negotiations, and then we’ll see what happens after that.
QUESTION: P.J. --
QUESTION: How is that effort going?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: How is that effort to get them into proximity talks going? What’s – has there been any movement at all or any contact?
MR. CROWLEY: I think the back and forth – there is – has been contact, but then the back and forth continues. We’re still looking for the parties to indicate that they’re prepared to take the steps that we’ve outlined for both of them that can create the right atmosphere for proximity talks to get underway.
QUESTION: Would that include a meeting next week when Prime Minister Netanyahu is here, with the prime minister and the Secretary, or the prime minister and special envoy and --
MR. CROWLEY: At this point, I’ve got nothing to project about future meetings.
QUESTION: P.J., recently when U.S. and Pakistan met here for a strategic conference, when Pakistan asked the U.S. that they should be given the same kind of deal with – like U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement or deal, were you told that they already had the deal with China when they were meeting here in Washington? Because they already had a deal with China – Pakistan-Chinese nuclear --
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know --
QUESTION: -- civil nuclear deal?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know if this came up during our discussions. We are focused on Pakistan’s energy needs. But as we said last week, right now, that does not include civilian nuclear energy.
QUESTION: Back to Sudan for a minute. You said there are a number of developments, but I didn’t quite get your drift about whether they are positive or negative. Is Scott Gration feeling more or less optimistic that the election will produce a credible result?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we’re going to wait to see – we do expect the elections to begin next week. There have been difficulties. As we’ve said, the parties have legitimate grievances in terms of their access to media.
I mean, there is – I mean, this is the first election in Sudan in 24 years. We know this is going to be difficult. We know that this is going to be hard for Sudan to produce an election that is comparable to a developed country like the United States. So we know there are going to be problems. We know there are going to be challenges. But we also recognize that this election and the referenda that follow are critical to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
But I think as to – we would hope that the Sudanese people, North and South, will recognize the value of being able to participate in a process. We see that there are a vast number of candidates for office at the national level, at the regional level, at the state level. We think this is a healthy development for Sudan, but we don’t underestimate the challenges that --
QUESTION: Given all these caveats that you’ve just listed and that you still say we have to view this election as an important step in the process, it sounds as though the U.S. is going to be ready to sign off on the results no matter how flawed the actual process in this election is. And if that’s the case, why does the U.S. think that the results of a flawed election can produce an adequate structure to hold the referendum when things --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Andy, what is the alternative?
QUESTION: Delay the election. That’s what the opposition is calling for.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – I mean, again, understand that there are multiple elections here – national elections, regional elections, state elections. So there’s a lot more about this than just a particular decision by candidates not to contest in the national presidential election. That is important. And we respect the decision by the SPLM that they announced yesterday.
But we are talking about developing institutions that are critically important to the future of Sudan. We’re talking about implementing specific obligations under the CPA that lead to the important referenda that will occur next January. We want to see CPA implementation continue on schedule. This election is part of that process. We understand that there are going to be problems. We understand that there are going to be flaws in this election. We understand that there – not every action that’s going on in Sudan is constructive. Scott is there continuing to work with the parties, continuing to work with the National Election Commission. I think we want to see a credible result.
We understand that whatever emerges beginning next week will not be a perfect result. Ultimately, we think there’s value in giving the people of Sudan an opportunity to participate in a broader political process for the first time in a quarter century. That has value. We will not hesitate – as will the many election observers that will be in Sudan beginning next week. We will not hesitate to point out where we think there have been problems. But we’re going to reserve judgment until we see the results of the election, but we think that this is an important and necessary step.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Right, hold on. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, just going to Japan for a moment. The secretary general of the DPJ Ichiro Ozawa announced today that he won’t be taking a trip that he had been planning to the United States. On the trip, he was going to be meeting with potentially the President. (Inaudible) planning to have some cabinet-level meetings. I was wondering if you have any reaction to his decision or --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m actually not aware of the decision, so --
QUESTION: Okay. Can you take the question or can I get a comment from you on the --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, what’s the – I mean, I will – I’ll see what we know about that.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Can I go back to North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: You may.
QUESTION: Earlier, you mentioned about Korean – North Korea Government’s amnesty. So do you respect North Korea’s legal process specifically on this case?
MR. CROWLEY: Do we what?
QUESTION: Respect North Korea’s legal process?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we have longstanding concerns about North Korea’s legal process. And we do have questions about this case. We – but – and we would hope that North Korea will grant him amnesty and will release him as soon as possible. And we will be working with our protecting power, Sweden, to make those views known to the North Korean Government.
We have long – I think the Human Rights Report and other reports have categorized – we have long had concerns about the lack of transparency and due process in the North Korean legal system. But at this point, if they’ve gone through a legal process, what we want right now is to see on humanitarian grounds our American citizen released.
QUESTION: Has there ever been any specific request from North – demand or request from North Korea Government as a condition to release him to State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I mean, our view on the safety and security of American citizens is unconditional. It is something that we take very seriously. And wherever there are American citizens, we will look after their interests. We don’t think that the status of any American citizen should be tied to any extraneous interest.
QUESTION: P.J., this is a Columbus, Ohio story. A 17-year-old girl, Rifqa Bary, who has converted from Muslim to Christianity, she – her parents are forcing her to go back to Sri Lanka with them. If she has sent any request to the State Department, she’s asking for refuge to remain in the U.S. because she fears death in Sri Lanka?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure that we would necessarily have a role to play in that case. If it’s a domestic issue, it can go – I mean, we might. I’ll check. But I think we – it would go to either Justice or Department of Homeland Security.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question about his schedule today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:13 p.m.)
DPB # 51
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