1:45 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: We move from Afghanistan and Pakistan to volcanic ash. The Secretary is scheduled to attend the NATO informal foreign ministerial in Tallinn later this week. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said today that any change in the schedule of the informal ministerial will be announced tomorrow. However, regrettably, she will not make the stop en route to Tallinn in Finland for a speech and for meetings with high-level Finnish officials.
So right now, our plan is to depart Washington on Wednesday, but we regret that given the atmospherics, she will not be able to travel to Finland tomorrow.
MR. CROWLEY: Literally. Likewise, our U.S. delegation to conduct discussions with Russia on adoptions – that team got as far as Toronto over the weekend and was not able to get a follow-on flight to Moscow. So the team returned to Washington last night and we’re looking to reschedule the meetings in Moscow next week.
QUESTION: But the good news is that adoptions with Canada are now on, correct?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) We are in the midst of our meeting today on the Major Economies Forum here at the State Department, and in fact, I think there will be a press call at 5:30 this afternoon with Todd Stern and Mike Froman. However, a number of the ministers were not able to come to Washington, so while every country is represented in the room as we – in the meetings that are ongoing today here at the State Department, in some cases, the ministers who had planned to be here in Washington, they are connected to the Major Economies Forum by video teleconference. So the meeting is ongoing, but in some cases, the people in the room – the faces have changed.
Obviously, we are all concerned and focused on the interruptions of air travel and the impact that that has on not only international citizens, but also U.S. citizens. Across Europe today, we have dispatched a number of consular officers to key airports in Europe just to assess the situation to the extent that they can touch base with Americans who are involved in and caught up in these cancellations and see if there’s any particular assistance that is required. I’ve got no feedback yet in terms of what assistance, if any, our consular officials have provided.
For the most part, I think we’re aware that most American citizens are just weathering this, as are many citizens from around the world. But we are reaching out to see if there’s any help that is required.
QUESTION: Do you know which airports it is?
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t got a list, but there is kind of a broad directive just to – where we thought we were aware of significant numbers of Americans in key airports, we have officials there just to see if there’s any required – any assistance required. Right so far, I have not received any feedback that – of anything that has been newsworthy.
Shifting gears --
QUESTION: Can we stay on the ash just for a little bit or --
MR. CROWLEY: Can I come back to it? I just want to get through two other things. The United States congratulates Mr. Dervis Eroglu for his victory in elections held to select the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. We encourage him to continue to pursue a settlement that reunites Cyprus into a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation through a process based on UN parameters, including the leader statements of May 23rd and July 1st, 2008.
And finally, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro will travel to Santiago today to lead a U.S. delegation for the third session of the U.S.-Chile political-military dialogue. Joining the delegation will be Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Tony Foley, as well as representatives from the Western Hemisphere Bureau and the Department of Defense.
Okay. So back to ash.
QUESTION: Back on the ash, a couple things. Are you aware, other than the Secretary’s cancellation of Helsinki and the President’s cancellation of Poland, the adoption delegation, and the people who were supposed to be here for the Major Economies climate meeting, which was already a lot, are you aware of any other disruptions that this is to official --
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, I have no doubt that this is going to be a cascading challenge. I think --
QUESTION: No, but is there anything you can think of off the top of your head that – in addition to those that’s been --
MR. CROWLEY: Not so far. It’s a fair question, but I’d say on a day-to-day basis, we’re taking this one day at a time. Clearly, there are going to be other interruptions not only with people who plan to travel to Europe, but also people who may be around the world and have to adjust their travel plans to – as they return here to Washington. So this is going to have an impact, but – we are taking it day-to-day, but that’s all I can report so far.
QUESTION: All right. And then the other thing is for foreign citizens who are here in the States and may be stranded, is there any provision being made for them if their visas run out or if they’re unable to leave?
MR. CROWLEY: That probably is more a question for the Department of Homeland Security than for us, but I’ll see if there’s anything that we are doing on our end.
QUESTION: In a similar vein, but going back to something you’ve already said, I think, twice, that you don’t have an answer to yet, this has been going on for almost a week now, I think. Has – are there no reports from embassies in Europe about Americans coming in saying they need money or they need help with hotels or anything like that? Whether it’s their responsibility or not, do you have any kind of – are the meetings among embassies or consulates in various places to plan to help if there is a need?
MR. CROWLEY: No. (Laughter.) Let me parse that. For the most part, I think our citizens are managing the situation. It’s unprecedented as far as I know. They’re working with their airlines. They’re working with travel officials. So for the most part, this has not really involved specific assistance by the Department of State. To be sure, if there are any Americans that are in dire circumstances, they can come to the – and can reach embassy officials, and we’ll do what we can to help them. But I think so far, as far as we can tell, Americans who are stuck in Europe are weathering this as well as you can expect.
QUESTION: Do you even have an estimate of how many consular officers have been dispatched?
MR. CROWLEY: No, no. I know that we gave a directive, but we’ll – as we get reports back, we’ll provide them to you.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: On Iran, Iran seems to be going out of its way to say that this nuclear swap deal might still be alive and how they’re becoming more flexible. And is it possible this deal is still alive? Is it possible that they’re offering something that anybody would accept?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we looked at the deal offered last September as being a confidence-building step. Iran has now taken seven months and has really not been willing to respond meaningfully to that offer. I think we are still interested in taking that step, but at the heart of it, there was the proposal that Iran would ship out a significant amount of its stock of enriched fuel and there would be an exchange for a corresponding amount of fuel suitable to the Tehran research reactor.
Fundamentally, Iran has never agreed to that core element in the offer, which would be a step in restoring confidence by the international community in Iran’s nuclear intentions. I think we are still interested in pursuing that offer if Iran is interested. It would need to be updated, because over the course of the last seven months, Iran has had its centrifuges operating and one would presume has increased the amount of fuel that it has at its disposal. We are certainly not interested in having an arrangement that actually can be used to facilitate Iran’s noncompliance with its international obligations. So if Iran wants to pursue this, what it needs to do is actually indicate that formally to the IAEA. That is something that Iran has never done. We’ve heard press statements and other things, but what Iran has yet to do is come to the IAEA, sit down, and provide a meaningful response to what was put on the table last fall.
QUESTION: But just to follow up, I mean, the foreign minister of Turkey was here and he was telling reporters that the sticking point was the timing and that Iran wanted this to be simultaneous rather than have the stuff ship out, then it gets enriched and then returned, and that he was claiming that if, in fact, there was enough of this material to trade, then it would happen. And so I’m just – this is something I’ve never heard from Western diplomats. So I’m curious whether –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I want to say – I mean the details matter. This was at one point a fairly simple proposition. Provide enriched fuel and it will be reprocessed, which will then allow you to continue operations at the TRR and not interrupt what is a important humanitarian operation for the benefit of the Iranian people. And Iran, over the course of months, has offered a number of variations, none of which address the core international concern about the trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program. So if Iran is willing to have an exchange that not only meets legitimate Iranian needs, but also addresses core international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, we can have that discussion. But unfortunately, Iran has not come forward and with any kind of meaningful follow-up to what was discussed in Geneva.
QUESTION: Also on Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called for sanctions on gasoline exports to Iran. Will the U.S. support that?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to go into a play-by-play. We have ongoing discussions in New York on particulars of a sanctions resolution. Our goal is to have it be strong, meaningful, credible. But as to particular ingredients at this point, not willing to talk about them.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports that a senior Iranian official has said that the country is taking steps to try to decrease its imports of gasoline so as to protect itself or to mitigate the effects of any sanctions on its gas imports?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of that. I mean it is – it indicates Iran’s disregard for the welfare of its people. If it reduces gas imports, that will only increase the hardship on the Iranian people. Iran has a clear course in front of it. It can answer the questions that we have on its nuclear program, and in doing so in a constructive way, potentially end its isolation and allow for the kind of relationship and benefits of that relationship that come with the countries that are integrated into the global trading system. But the fact that they are now even pulling back even further tells us they’re not really interested in the welfare of their people. But I’m not aware of the --
QUESTION: Well, wait a minute. I mean, as you’re well aware, legislation has passed in the Congress looking to crack down on refined petroleum product imports into Iran. Does that indicate a view on the part of – in your view, that means that Chairman Berman is indifferent to the welfare of the Iranian people?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are in discussions about particular legislation with the Hill. I think let’s wait and see what emerges. We want to make sure, as the Secretary has said, and others, that what ultimately emerges on the sanctions front is directed at those entities within the Iranian Government that are directly related to and support their nuclear program while trying to spare hardship on the Iranian people. And in terms of whatever prospective legislation that might move forward that provides the foundation for national actions that could be taken, we want to make sure that there is enough flexibility in that legislation so that it can – we think it can be most effective in sending a strong, credible message to the Iranian people. But I’m not going to get ahead of either front. We’re working on a sanctions resolution in New York and we’re working constructively with Congress in terms of domestic legislation.
QUESTION: But P.J., what – I think what I just heard you say was that you’re taking that off the table.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not taking – I’m not putting anything on the table or off the table.
QUESTION: Well, but if you say that if Iran reduces its imports of refined petroleum, that’s going to hurt the Iranian people, and at the same time you also say that you don’t want to hurt the Iranian people. I mean, it’s --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and --
QUESTION: -- it’s a syllogism here.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me take it a step further.
QUESTION: That would mean – that would then mean that you don’t – you, the U.S., don’t want to go after refined petroleum products.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to specify at this point precisely what step is going to be in a sanctions resolution and I don’t want to predict what particular actions may be incorporated in domestic legislation. Neither of those have advanced that far at this point.
QUESTION: This is not the question. The question is, what about the – does the Administration think that putting – that --
QUESTION: Taking action --
QUESTION: -- taking action against – on – in the refined petroleum sector is a good thing or is a bad thing?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s neither. What we want to see happen here is whatever does emerge, one, should be credible; two, should be aimed specifically at what we think the heart of the problem is; and three, can actually be enforceable. And there’s a great deal of debate and there are lots of potential targets, but the things that we ultimately choose and move forward, we have to make sure that we actually can have the desired impact on the Iranian Government. I’m just not going to predict precisely what steps we’re going to take at this point. We’re interested in strong, credible sanctions.
QUESTION: Right. But I’m not really asking what steps you’re going to take. I’m trying to figure out if it’s still – if the Administration believes that going after refined petroleum products would hurt the Iranian people and thus go against what --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again --
QUESTION: -- what the Secretary and the President have been saying, that sanctions should target the elite.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly the energy sector writ large is one of the areas that we’re studying. As to what particular action that would have, if we could find a way to have an impact on the IRGC, the government, the ruling elite, and – we don’t want to see sanctions that have a disproportionate impact on the Iranian people. That involves a balancing act, and that’s the kind of analysis and discussions that we’re having within the Security Council and the P-5+1 right now.
Go ahead. All right. Sure.
QUESTION: Could I have just one more follow up question, please? My impression was that the Administration thought it was useful that the Congress was proceeding with this kind of legislation, which I realize has not yet been conferenced, and therefore, you don’t actually have, you know, a passed bill from both houses, and that it was useful to have that somewhere as a potential tool to be used against Iran. And I’d like to follow up on Matt’s question on whether you are effectively suggesting that it’s not on the table anymore.
MR. CROWLEY: What’s not on the table anymore?
QUESTION: The possibility of reducing Iran’s refined petroleum off the table --
MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t taken anything off the table. I haven’t put anything on the table. We are in the midst of this discussion. To your earlier point, clearly, whatever sanctions resolution emerges from the UN can be supplemented by national actions. And we are working with the Congress on what the particulars of that legislation might be. We want to have the ability to incorporate sufficient flexibility into what legislation emerges so that we can have the impact that we want, not only on Iran but also to make sure that we have concerted international action as we apply pressure on Iran.
QUESTION: Same issue.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. Erdogan said that he’s not going to support the sanctions at the Security Council. Any comment on this?
MR. CROWLEY: He – pardon me?
QUESTION: He’s not going to support sanctions against Iran at the Security Council. What is your comment?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we will continue the same kind of close consultation that we had with Turkey and other key countries as we did last week. And we expect that at the end of the day, we’ll get the support that we need to pass an important resolution.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we’ll wait for later this week, where we actually see the actual results. I think we released a statement by the United States, Britain, and Norway reflecting the initial analysis by the many international observers. As they indicated, and I think as we indicated before the elections took place, we’ve had longstanding concerns about the environment leading up to the election.
This was not a free and fair election. It did not, broadly speaking, meet international standards. That’s been clear in the comments that have been done by the Carter Center, the EU, and the AU over the past couple of days. That said, I think we recognize that the election is a very important step in terms of implementation of the CPA. And at this point, we will be focused on, now that this election has happened – and I should emphasize that everyone is focused on the presidency and the likely reelection of President Bashir, but there have been many, many election races for state governor, for state assemblies. These are the very institutions that are going to be vitally important from this point until early in 2010 in overseeing the upcoming referenda, further steps that have to be taken with respect to Abyei, with respect to Darfur, so that we have the – a credible referenda process that, quite honestly, is likely to yield the emergence of a new country.
So while we understand that there were flaws and failures in terms of this electoral process, we still recognize that there’s a lot of work to be done. And the people who have been elected, broadly speaking, to a number of positions will now play critical roles going forward. And we, the United States, will continue to work with the government in the north, the government in the south, as we move forward with full implementation of the CPA and the vitally important referenda that’ll happen in January of next year.
QUESTION: How important is that referendum? How important is its success in voicing your concerns over the elections?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, as we said last week, we do recognize that this was the first national election in Sudan in, what, 24 years. We anticipated there would be problems and there were in fact problems. That said, we recognize the value of having millions of people in Sudan exercise their right to vote, and we will see what the actual results are. But we do expect that authorities in the north, authorities in the south – they have very specific tasks in front of them. We are going to work with them and with the international community because there’s a lot of work to do that’ll have a fundamental impact on the future of Sudan.
QUESTION: It took --
QUESTION: So you’re predicting that the referendum in January is going to – they’re going to vote – the south is going to vote to secede?
MR. CROWLEY: That is a very possible, if not likely, outcome.
QUESTION: And what do you think of that?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s not what we think of it. It’s a question of from --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. CROWLEY: If that is ultimately the decision by the people of South Sudan, then we’ve got a lot of work to do, because laid out in the CPA is the referenda, and if the referenda results in a decision to form a new country, then that timetable then ticks off from there. I think six months after that, there is a new country in what used to be Sudan. So there’s a lot of work to do. And that’s where, notwithstanding our concerns about the election, we are, in fact, focused on this very aggressive and difficult timetable.
What are – coming from this, what are – what can we do to resolve remaining issues in terms of borders, in terms of sharing of energy resources, how do we begin the process of building out institutions that will be important if Sudan decides to stay together and will be critical if Sudan decides to divide in two.
QUESTION: In the international community, how would you characterize the role that China is playing in Sudan?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, China is pledged to devote considerable infrastructure to Sudan, North and South. I mean, Sudan has a great many needs and there is significant international cooperation underway. We would hope that these projects are done for the benefit of Sudan and – as opposed to being for the benefit of the employment rate of another country. So we will work with the international community, those who want to invest in Sudan, and try to do that collaboratively so that you have better integration, better cooperation, better collaboration, and that ends up benefitting more and more people in the country.
QUESTION: P.J., on Mexico, starting tomorrow, U.S. is imposing an embargo to the Mexican imports of shrimp after the State Department did not renew the certification to the Mexican fleet. What is the current status of that situation? I understand the Mexican Government was trying to ask for new inspections this year.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I’m just not up-to-date on that.
QUESTION: About the Consulate, how is the current situation in the U.S. Consulate in Tamaulipas?
MR. CROWLEY: In?
QUESTION: In Matamoros, in Laredo.
MR. CROWLEY: I believe it’s operating, but I’ll take that question, too. I haven’t heard.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a question on Cyprus. Do you have – I mean the American Government have a Plan B now that Mr. Talat, a friend of the United States, is out and Mr. Eroglu, a well-known nationalist, is the new face in the occupied areas of Cyprus?
MR. CROWLEY: I think right now, our focus is on Plan A. There is a UN process. It has been supported by both communities. We think that is the right course. There were some statements in the run-up to the election that there would be broad support within the – in those communities for ongoing dialogue. We support that approach. But we will have the opportunity in coming days to sit down with the new leadership and determine what their plans are, and then we’ll react accordingly.
QUESTION: Last week, the Secretary called Mr. Talat. Can you tell us if she called today Mr. Eroglu?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that she’s called today.
QUESTION: P.J., on the delegation not making its way to Russia, is there any further clarification on adoptions?
MR. CROWLEY: No change in that.
QUESTION: Is there any thought to having a clarifying phone call since they can’t make it there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have an Embassy in Moscow led by one of our ablest diplomats, John Byerly. He remains in contact with the foreign ministry and we continue to sort through how this process will unfold. We look forward to these discussions with Russia when we can get our team there. And we continue to monitor the movement of some cases as they make their way through the Russian legal system. We do recognize that coming out of some of these recent events, the broader process of adoptions is slowing down, but we plan to work constructively with Russia to try to seek a resolution so that these adoptions can continue.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, but I thought that as of the end of last week, you did not have clarity on whether or not there had been a suspension --
MR. CROWLEY: We – to this moment, we have not been formally notified that all adoptions are suspended. We recognize that some court cases have been postponed. And – but as of this moment, we continue to – we will rely on this dialogue with Russia coming up to try to clarify the way forward and see if we can’t address the concerns that Russia has.
I will say that the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues has set up a special email box for questions and comments about adoptions of Russia, RussiaAdoptions@state.gov. So we do recognize that there are families who have initiated a process in some fashion; they are justifiably worried about the status of their prospective adoption. If they’ve got questions, email us and we’ll see what we can do about getting answers.
QUESTION: And the bottom line is – I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to be obtuse here. But as far as you know, adoptions are continuing or not? Or you don’t know?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are adoptions that are continuing and there are cases that have been put on hold. So the answer is a little bit of both.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: South Korean Foreign Minister Yu said yesterday that he will bring the sinking of the South Korean warship to the United Nations Security Council if North Korea’s involvement is confirmed. So do you have any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that is a right that every country has. From our standpoint, the investigation is ongoing and we continue to cooperate with South Korea in that investigation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:17 p.m.)
DPB # 58