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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 16, 2010


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • US strongly condemns bombings in Kandahar / two Americans contractors for USAID were among the wounded
  • PAKISTAN
    • US is reviewing UN report on assassination of Benazir Bhutto / US will continue to work with Pakistan to build and defend institutions of democracy /regarding Bhutto's security, there were failures at a number of levels / the report speaks for itself
    • No comment on new name given to Pakistani province
    • Regarding recently published UN report citing concerns with Pakistan's army and ISI having links with the Taliban, US remains concerned about presence of extremist groups in countries of South Asia; US believes very strongly in the aggressive steps that Pakistan is taking; have pledged to cooperate fully with the US
  • RUSSIA
    • US has had follow-on discussion with high-level officials in the foreign ministry in Moscow / there is not a de jure suspension of adoptions / a number of cases are continuing in the legal system / adoptions are still progressing / we are aware that a number of cases that were pending before the courts have been postponed / the matter will be discussed further with Russian officials early next week
    • Team traveling to Russia includes officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is a subset of Department of Homeland Security.
    • Taken question regarding additional details pertaining to Russian assessment team to Afghanistan, to the Salang Tunnel
  • IRAN
    • There will not be an official US delegation attending the upcoming Iranian-hosted nuclear summit
    • Regarding the report that India, Brazil and South Africa were opposed to any additional sanctions against Iran, the US has no issue with countries who wish to dialogue with Iran; US hopes that they would tell Iran that it needs to come forward and engage more constructively, answer questions that the international community has been raising for months and years about the nature of Iran's nuclear program
    • US will continue to work closely with countries within the P-5+1 process and within the Security Council
    • US is willing to engage, Iran has not; US remains prepared to talk to Iran
  • LEBANON
    • US would view Lebanon's leadership of the UN Security Council as part of its normal representation; we welcome Lebanon in the chair / Lebanon has a responsibility to listen to the debate and move the process forward
  • CLIMATE MEETING
    • US is hosting Major Economies Forum at the US Department of State on Sunday and Monday / Special Envoy Todd Stern and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman will lead the effort / there are 17 major economies who are members of the forum, and possibly others
  • EUROPE
    • US is closely monitoring the travel disruptions caused by the volcanic ash / primarily a matter for the FAA, but if American citizens need help, we have embassies and consulates in various countries that can provide assistance
  • TURKEY
    • We want to see Turkey and Armenia ratify those protocols, normalize relations, open borders


TRANSCRIPT:

2:00 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: And, Goyal, just to pick up on your point, the United States strongly condemns the bombings that occurred last night in Kandahar city. The senseless act of violence took the lives of Afghan citizens and wounded numerous others from the international community, including American citizens. Those killed and injured last night were in Afghanistan working, as Dr. Shah and Jack Lew indicated, on much-needed development, economic opportunity, and providing electricity to the people of Kandahar. And the terrorists who carried out this attack are clearly not interested in improving the lives of those citizens.

We are – we understand that there have been two Americans, both contract employees, two USAID, who were among the wounded, and we obviously will – we offer our thoughts and prayers to them and we’ll be supporting their families as they recover.

 

QUESTION: But how come they never mentioned about these two bombings while they were in Afghanistan and Pakistan during this long briefing they had now?

MR. CROWLEY: They knew that I had a statement to make.

QUESTION: Yeah, but they should have really mentioned before --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, if we had more time, I would have called on you and they would have had that opportunity.

QUESTION: This UN report on Benazir Bhutto – you said you were going to say something, especially --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we obviously – we have the report. We are reviewing it. The United States cooperated fully, not just in this UN investigation but obviously in the independent Scotland Yard investigation that preceded it. The assassination was a tragedy for the people of Pakistan, and Benazir Bhutto gave her life in defense of the development of Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the progress of which you heard described here. And we will continue to work with Pakistan to make sure that we build the institutions of democracy going forward and help them defend them as well.

QUESTION: Do you think there was lack of advice from Washington when she was leaving for Pakistan? Was she advised? Because the deal basically between Musharraf and her was hatched here in Washington, that she would go and --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I don’t want to get into the particulars of the report. I mean, the United States was --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we encouraged her return. We encouraged Pakistan’s return to a civilian government and civilian rule. Clearly, tragically, there were failures at a number of levels where she did not have the protection that she deserved and obviously needed. But I’m not going to comment on the particulars of the report. The report speaks for itself.

QUESTION: Do you think --

QUESTION: Is there anything new – I’m sorry. Is there anything new in this report than what you really didn’t know before when she was killed during --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, Goyal, I’m not going to comment on – we cooperated fully in this report, as we did in the case of the Scotland Yard investigation.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Pashtun (inaudible) from Voice of America. And would you like to say something on the Pashtun in Pakistan North-West Frontier Province just got a new name, which is – mean a lot to them after a century of struggle. Is --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t feel equipped to make a comment on that.

Matt.

QUESTION: South Asia?

QUESTION: UN report?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: UN proposed report?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: A section of the report says that Pakistan’s army and ISI continues to have links with Lashkar e-Tayyiba and Taliban. Is it an issue? Are you concerned about this? Do you have any comments on it?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are, of course, concerned about the presence of extremist groups in countries of South Asia regardless of where they are. This has been a part of our ongoing dialogue with Pakistan. It came up in the discussion that Secretary Clinton had earlier this week with Prime Minister Gilani. And I just simply would say that we emphasize again this is a shared struggle. We believe very strongly in the aggressive steps that Pakistan is taking. They have pledged to continue to cooperate fully with the United States and also to cooperate fully with India, both in terms of ongoing investigations, making sure that those who have perpetrated past crimes are brought to justice, and that together that the countries in the region reduce and ultimately eliminate this threat that threatens all of them.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we leave South Asia for --

MR. CROWLEY: We can begin to. We can always come back to it.

QUESTION: Thank you. What is your understanding now of the situation with Russia and adoptions? Have you been able to clear this up?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve had some follow-on discussions today between Ambassador John Beyrle in Moscow and high-level officials in the foreign ministry in Moscow. I think we can say that – is there a de jure suspension of adoptions? There’s not. There are a number of cases that are in the legal system now and are continuing. So are adoptions still progressing that involve children that – to be adopted by American parents? They are.

I think we are also aware that a number of cases that were pending before the courts have been postponed. And I think this will be a matter that we will discuss further with Russian officials early next week when our team arrives in Moscow.

QUESTION: So would you say there was a de facto suspension?

MR. CROWLEY: I said there is not a de jure suspension. But clearly, there are cases that were poised to move forward and we understand that there have been a number of cases before the courts that have been postponed.

QUESTION: So that – so, in fact, what is happening is that cases that were already in the – already approved, approved by the court and were going through are going through, but new cases, cases where the court hadn’t acted yet, have, in fact, been suspended?

MR. CROWLEY: There have – whether this is a blanket suspension or the fact that there are – are there cases that have been postponed, so is it possible the system is slowing down for a period of time? It is possible. So this is a matter that we are going to discuss with the --

QUESTION: It’s not possible. It’s happening, right?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, all right. Is there an impact from what has happened recently involving cases here in the United States? There is an impact.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I – and that impact is what?

MR. CROWLEY: I just stated it.

QUESTION: That --

MR. CROWLEY: That there --

QUESTION: That there is a suspension?

MR. CROWLEY: We are aware that there have been pending cases before the courts and those cases have been postponed.

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of – in a situation where a case was not pending before the court where it was a new – a new application would be made?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I understand the question.

QUESTION: Well, Parent X, an American, wants to adopt a Russian child, hasn’t yet done anything about it and wants to apply to do that. Will that case be allowed to --

MR. CROWLEY: I think that’s the very kind of question that we’ll be asking when we sit down with Russian officials on Monday.

QUESTION: So you still don’t know?

MR. CROWLEY: I have told you what we know. There are cases that are still moving forward. There are cases that have been postponed. Does this represent a blanket suspension? The answer is no. Does this mean that there could be some instances where cases are held up for a period of time as we try to clarify what’s happening and see if we can strengthen the processes that are in place? Yes, there may well be delays.

QUESTION: Okay. And the team that’s going, when are they --

MR. CROWLEY: They will be leaving this weekend. I think they have meetings at the Embassy on Sunday. I think they have – and they have meetings on Monday and Tuesday with Russian officials.

QUESTION: P.J., what about the travel with the volcanic ash situation?

QUESTION: Obviously.

MR. CROWLEY: A fair question. Right now, as far as I know, they are still planning to travel. I mean, what Jack Lew was saying, for example, is aircraft are taking a more southerly route to get to certain places. So can they probably still get there? They probably still can. Could they --

QUESTION: I defy you to find a southerly route to Moscow. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Put it this way: It’s a fair question. If there’s any impact on the current situation on this team, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Did the Russians tell you that they want – did they tell explicitly that they wanted a new agreement with you before resuming?

MR. CROWLEY: The Russians have mentioned to us that they want to reach a bilateral agreement. We share the same objective – to find improved ways to process these adoptions while making sure that these adoptions continue to move forward. So we’ll see what the meeting produces next week.

Courtney.

QUESTION: So is it fair to say that they are – the Russians are still accepting new applications from Americans to adopt children? Or is that not accurate?

MR. CROWLEY: I’d defer to Russia to describe that. I don’t think the system has stopped. It’s very possible the system is slowing down as we work through these issues.

QUESTION: What’s the State Department advising Americans who want to put in an application, then, for Russian --

MR. CROWLEY: They probably should touch base with us, with – and we can provide them the latest perspective.

QUESTION: Well, what --

QUESTION: What is that?

QUESTION: What is the latest perspective?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this is --

QUESTION: Hold off, wait until --

MR. CROWLEY: This is --

QUESTION: -- the team gets back?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, what --

QUESTION: I mean, are you going to tell us something different than you’re going to tell them?

MR. CROWLEY: No, but we may have some more insights after we have the meetings next week.

QUESTION: P.J. --

MR. CROWLEY: Wait, Goyal – all right. We’ll stay on Russia and then we’ll come --

QUESTION: Just a quick one, yeah. Who is also in the team? I think you mentioned yesterday that there are officials from the Department of Homeland Security, right?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Why is that? Who are the officials?

MR. CROWLEY: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, for example.

QUESTION: Anybody else from other agencies, U.S. Government agencies?

MR. CROWLEY: Tell you what. I’ll try to get you a delegation list on Monday.

QUESTION: It’s not on Russia.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Anything else on Russia?

Okay.

QUESTION: The Iranian foreign minister has told Al Jazeera that there’s a delegation, a U.S. delegation, attending the nuclear summit tomorrow. Can you please tell us --

MR. CROWLEY: Nuclear summit?

QUESTION: In Iran.

MR. CROWLEY: In Tehran?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: So there is no U.S. delegation?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe there’s not. There’s not.

QUESTION: You haven’t (inaudible) travel schedule is?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, you’re talking about an official U.S. delegation?

QUESTION: Yes, a U.S. delegation going there for tomorrow’s --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll check the mail this afternoon, but I am not – I’m not aware that we got an invitation.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Same thing, a question on Iran.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The leaders of India, Brazil, and South Africa met in Brazil yesterday and they discussed the topic of Iran and – in which they said they are not – they are against any sanctions against Iran and they want to have dialogue with Iran. Do you have any comments on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if countries in this situation choose to have dialogue with Iran, we have no trouble with that. And we hope that they will simply tell Iran that it needs to come forward and engage more constructively, answer the questions that the international community has been raising for months and years about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. We hope they will tell them that there is still a deal on the table, although it’s been there for some time, that can help build confidence that Iran, in fact, has peaceful intentions. But that deal requires Iran to take specific actions that it has been unwilling to do at this point.

So we remain working closely with our – with countries both within the P-5+1 process and within the Security Council. And we continue to think that there’s this – there’s a broad diplomatic effort involved. It has to involve engagement, as these countries indicate, but also has to involve pressure to make it clear to Iran that there’s a consequence for its failure to meet its obligations.

QUESTION: Are these three countries – India, Brazil, South Africa – big countries, emerging markets, they have indicated they are against any sanctions on Iran as well. Do you have --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and there have been other countries that have taken that position. And as they’ve sat down and talked to Iran, they have come away with the same conclusion that we’ve come away with: that we are willing to engage, the world is willing to engage, and Iran is not.

So this has to be – this can’t be a one-way conversation. It has to be a conversation that has some action and a response from Iran. We trust that should they choose to engage Iran in the coming days and weeks, if Iran reciprocates and Iran actually comes with meaningful action, that will be a welcome step.

But we’ve had other conversations where countries and their leaders have talked to Iran and came away saying they’re not prepared to do anything. And if that remains Iran’s position, then there’s clearly going to be consequences.

QUESTION: Is Iran (inaudible) --

QUESTION: It’s still open for --

MR. CROWLEY: Is Iran talking to us?

QUESTION: Is Iran talking to you or are you talking with Iranians?

MR. CROWLEY: We remain prepared to talk to Iran. We engaged Iran directly with others under the P-5+1 process last fall in Geneva. And as you know, there has not been a meeting since, not because we haven’t been willing but because they haven’t been willing.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: How are the negotiations coming along at the UN? I mean, are you still on track to have the sanctions ready in a couple of weeks?

MR. CROWLEY: There is no particular timetable, but the President has indicated a strong preference to get this done, to reach an understanding in a matter of weeks.

QUESTION: So you are – quickly, one – I’m sorry – quick one. Are you saying that so far from then till today, Iranian behavior has not changed in any way?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. That’s exactly what we’re saying.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I get to another subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Can I get to another subject?

MR. CROWLEY: On Iran? Going once, going twice? (Laughter.) What --

QUESTION: Actually, I have one quick Iran question.

MR. CROWLEY: From The New York Times.

QUESTION: Do you view Lebanon sitting in the chair at the UN Security Council as a hurdle to coming to an agreement on sanctions in the month of May?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we would view Lebanon’s leadership of the UN Security Council as part of its normal representation. Everyone who sits on the council has a chance to chair the council. We’ll welcome Lebanon in the chair. But clearly, in that leadership capacity, Lebanon – just as we have with others who have led the council in recent months – have a responsibility to listen to the debate and move the process forward. And we would expect that would be – that would happen regardless of who’s in the chair.

QUESTION: It’s a bilateral U.S.-Russian question on Afghanistan. I’m sorry, I realized it only now; I should have addressed it to previous briefers.

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Burns revealed a couple of days ago that U.S. and Russia are about to send an assessment team to Afghanistan, to the Salang Tunnel. Do you have any additional details on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Let me – we’ll take and see if we have any additional details. I mean, clearly, Russia has considerable interest in the region, as does the United States. We have worked very constructively with Russia as the system of overflights has indicated. But I’ll see if we can get more particulars on that particular project.

Christophe.

QUESTION: Can you give us a preview on the climate meetings that will be on Sunday? What is the agenda? What does the Administration expect to get?

MR. CROWLEY: I can. We are hosting the Major Economics[1] Forum here at the Department of State on Sunday and Monday. Both Special Envoy Todd Stern and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman will lead this effort. We are going to see if we can’t continue our dialogue among major developed and developing economies to make progress in meeting our objectives on climate change and the Clean Energy Challenge.

Clearly, there is still a gap between the views of the developing and developed world, and we’re going to see if we can, through the course of this discussion, narrow that down.

QUESTION: I understand some countries will send ministers to the meeting and some others will not? Is that --

MR. CROWLEY: There are 17 major economies who are members of the forum: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. There may well be others who are represented there, but I’ll see if we can get you a broader list.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Kirit.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up on the question I asked you yesterday about the flight cancellations that are going on throughout Europe. Do you know if your embassies are doing anything to help the numerous stranded Americans who have now been stuck for several days and may not get out for a few more?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I – we are closely monitoring it and, as you heard, we’ve got people traveling in one direction, traveling in another direction. Assistant Secretary Bob Blake is making his way back to the United States from Kyrgyzstan and we’re waiting to see if he gets back on time as well.

This is primarily a matter for the Federal Aviation Administration, but if we do have American citizens who need help, we have embassies and consulates in various countries that can provide that assistance. But I haven’t got a sense of whether we’ve been called on at this point to do anything in particular.

Hold on.

QUESTION: Thank you. Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu met Secretary of State --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, he did.

QUESTION: -- Clinton yesterday, and you mentioned during yesterday’s press briefing that they discussed also Armenia-Turkey topic. Can you provide some details regarding this – yesterday’s meeting, and do you discuss also the necessity of future democratization of Turkey, facing history, all these topics? Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: On the latter, that was not discussed. I mean, we obviously had very meaningful discussions this week, both with the Turkish side, with the Armenian side, and we continue to try to find the right formula working with both countries. And clearly, we’re also supporting the Minsk process regarding Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. We are – the process has stalled from last fall when the countries signed the protocols on normalization. We want to see Turkey and Armenia ratify those protocols, normalize relations, open borders. That has significant benefits for both countries. And we continue to work with both to see if we can find the right formula, the right timing to see ratification and the benefits that come with ratification.

QUESTION: The Azerbaijani side has some objections regarding this rapprochement process. Does the American side work with their Azerbaijani counterparts to somehow resolve these issues?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to work to see how we can – I mean, there are things that both countries have committed to do. There are difficult processes working with their respective parliaments. We have the same experience in this country where the Executive Branch can make a commitment that has to work with Congress in terms of implementing that or getting ratification of that. We know this is a difficult process. We know it involves emotion on both sides, risk on both sides, and we will continue to work constructively with Armenia and Turkey to try to see this process through.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)

[1]Major Economies Forum



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