1:10 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Well, good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A few things to talk about before taking your questions.
Secretary Clinton was scheduled to speak Wednesday evening at the Virginia Military Institute, but we regrettably have to postpone her speech. At relatively the same time, she will be providing – participating in the memorial service for the late civil rights leader Dorothy Height. But we look forward to rescheduling her trip to Lexington as soon as that can be arranged.
A short time ago, the Secretary hosted Defense Secretary Robert Gates for lunch here at the State Department, going through a wide range of current policy issues.
The Secretary tomorrow will provide remarks at the closing session of the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, which is underway here – in the Ronald Reagan Building today. I think the President speaks later on this afternoon. But also on Wednesday, the Secretary will host a breakfast for women entrepreneurs who have attended this presidential summit. And she will announce the launch of the Secretary’s Innovation Award for Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Secretary’s Global Fund for Women and Girls.
Also, beginning today through May 20th, the State Department, our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with FORTUNE’s Most Powerful Women and the Vital Voices Global Partnership, they’ve joined together for the fifth FORTUNE/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, which involves – connects over 50 of America’s senior women executives from more than 30 companies with emerging women leaders around the world. The program has more than doubled in size since its inception in 2006.
Under Secretary for Policy[i] Bill Burns is back in Washington. Over the weekend, he finished up an extensive trip to Africa with – meeting with Nigerian Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. They talked about the newly formed U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission, as well as shared interests on nuclear security, including our desire to explore avenues of increased cooperation against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He also met with Cape Verdean President Pires and Foreign Minister Brito yesterday before returning to Washington, discussing maritime security cooperation and regional efforts to address instability in Guinea-Bissau.
Assistant Secretary Bob Blake is in Nepal, where he – yesterday, he met – he visited Maiti Nepal, an anti-trafficking foundation that was recently awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant by the United States Department of State. He talked to trafficking survivors and commended the head of Maiti Nepal on the valuable work her foundation has achieved. Today, he met with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and also Home Minister Bhim Nawal – or, I’m sorry, Rawal – and political party leaders. He urged them to work together to meet the May 28 constitution drafting deadline, extend the U.S. – the UN Mission in Nepal mandate, and agree on a plan to integrate former Maoist combatants.
Likewise, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell earlier today delivered a keynote address at the East-West Center’s international media conference in Hong Kong, on U.S. relations in Asia. He also had the opportunity to meet with members of the Hong Kong Government as well as our consular officials, and he will be traveling to Japan tomorrow.
And finally – on Friday we left you hanging – today is World Intellectual Property Day, and we left you hanging on Friday. But the – we can report that the first patent in 1790 was given to Samuel Hopkins, a patent on the process of making potash, a key ingredient in fertilizer.
With that, I’ll take your questions. Go ahead.
QUESTION: What can you say about the apparent freeze on construction in Israel that’s being reported?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the Israeli Government. We have asked both sides to take steps to rebuild trust and to create momentum so that we can see advances in the proximity talks and ultimately direct negations. As we’ve said, we’re not going to go into details of what we’ve asked them to do, but obviously this is an important issue in the atmosphere to see the advancement of peace. But as to any steps the Israelis are to take in this regard, I’ll defer to them.
QUESTION: Can you shed some light on the meeting between George Mitchell and President Abbas, and whether President Abbas was invited to Washington?
MR. CROWLEY: On invitations to the White House, I’ll defer to the White House. I’m not aware that a formal invitation has been extended.
QUESTION: Can you say, actually, going back, (inaudible) – can you actually say whether there is a de facto freeze? Have they told you that they’ve stopped building units?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re not going to go into the specifics of our back-and-forth.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There’s news reports that Iran and Zimbabwe have signed a secret uranium deal, whereby Iran would be able to mine uranium in Zimbabwe. Do you have any information about that or any reaction to it? It would appear to be in contravention of the UN sanctions resolutions.
MR. CROWLEY: Let me take that question.
QUESTION: Also on Iran, there are some – the Iranian foreign minister met with the head of the IAEA to discuss the uranium deal, and I was wondering if you have heard back from the IAEA. Do you see this as a positive development that we might see some traction on the deal?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll see – I’ll take that question, too. I haven’t heard whether we have any feedback from that meeting.
QUESTION: Is it still the Administration’s hope and desire to have a sanctions resolution passed by the end of the month, as was previously expressed by the President when he said in a couple of weeks he hoped to have --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the President wants this done as rapidly as possible. We all do. There are meetings still going on in New York, and we want to see this wrapped up quickly. Been a great deal of global engagement. The Secretary had a number of calls over the weekend to world leaders. So we are actively engaged with a wide range of countries to seek a strong sanctions resolution as quickly as we can get it done.
QUESTION: Who specifically did she speak with in regards to the Iran sanctions?
MR. CROWLEY: Jeez, I can get you a – I’ll get you a detailed list. But it was – she made several calls over the weekend, Foreign Minister Lavrov among --
QUESTION: Do you think it’s really --
QUESTION: On the same thing, could you get us a list of meetings or can you tell us about the meetings that are going on in regard to the UN resolution?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we are actively engaged in New York in a variety of different groupings to reach a conclusion on the particulars of a resolution, and we want to get this done as soon as possible.
QUESTION: And you can’t be any more – or could you be more specific, get us some information that’s more specific?
MR. CROWLEY: On?
QUESTION: On the variety of groupings, meetings. Are they daily? Are they twice a day? Are they at the ambassadorial level?
MR. CROWLEY: I’d say it’s safe to assume that we’re having daily meetings on the subject.
QUESTION: Do you think – a couple of things. Have you – has the P-5 signed off on a draft now that it’s discussing with other member countries? Because last week, there were some complaints by nonpermanent members that they weren’t being consulted enough.
MR. CROWLEY: We are consulting with a significant number of countries.
QUESTION: Beyond the P-5?
MR. CROWLEY: On these issues, yes.
QUESTION: Do you really expect that a resolution can be passed while Lebanon is the – holds the presidency? Do you think that – are you concerned that Iran might put pressure on Lebanon not to call a vote?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think this effort comes to a halt past Friday.
QUESTION: Also, while discussions are ongoing on the resolution, given that we heard that the Iranian foreign minister was meeting with the head of the IAEA about this deal, is it still your hope that this – is this deal still on the table?
MR. CROWLEY: We would – let’s step back. Iran needs to come forward and answer the questions the international community has about its nuclear program. We envisioned the Tehran research reactor proposal as a useful step to build some confidence to show that Iran was willing to engage seriously. They have not. They have not formally come back to the IAEA with any kind of response on the proposal. We’ll check and see if one was forthcoming in this particular meeting. We would still, I think, be interested in seeing a deal on the Tehran research reactor. But --
QUESTION: Would that stop the resolution?
MR. CROWLEY: No, of course not. I mean, there is – there are multiple tracks in this. But clearly, the deal that was made last – or the proposal that was made last fall would need to be updated in light of the fact that Iran has been processing additional fuel since September. But if they wish to engage seriously on this arrangement, which we think is in Iran’s interest and potentially can be an important step, we’re all ears. But Iran has had many months to come forward and has failed to seriously address the issue that was put on the table last fall.
QUESTION: On Iran, not necessarily a related topic, the three hikers. Last week at the end of the week, the Administration made a big point of putting out statements regarding them. Has there been any response from the Iranians on this, or is there anything new, any further visits, calls?
MR. CROWLEY: No further visits that I’m aware of and no formal response from Iran.
QUESTION: On Mexico. Was Mexico part of the talks of Secretary Clinton or Secretary Gates? Is there any possibility that maybe U.S. can increase the military assistance to Mexico to stop the Mexican cartels?
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Say that again?
QUESTION: Mexico was in the talks of Secretary Gates with Secretary Clinton, a possible increase in military assistance?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary had a long list of items prospectively to go over with Secretary Gates. We are working closely with the Department of Defense on (inaudible) aspects of the Merida Initiative and the delivery of systems within that, particularly helicopters. But I don’t know if that came up specifically in this particular meeting.
QUESTION: In Mexico, former President Clinton had mentioned the possibility of increasing the help – military assistance – to Mexico throughout a Mexican plan, a Plan Mexico instead of Merida Initiative. What do you think about this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are significantly invested in the Merida Initiative. Under the first phase, it involved the delivery of significant systems to augment Mexico’s capability. We are now in the midst of transitioning and into more training that allows the military and law enforcement to develop institutionally to be able to combat this. And that’s where we are now. But we are committed to work with Mexico over the long term to help what is – help defeat what is a shared threat to Mexico and the United States and the rest of the hemisphere.
QUESTION: Now, the Mexican minister of the interior had mentioned that U.S. should be ashamed or embarrassed because the increasing violence in Mexico. They believe U.S. is not doing enough to prevent the flow of weapons and (inaudible) cash to Mexico. What do you think?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let us agree, as the Secretary has said and as I think President Calderon has said, on both sides of the border we need to do more. And we continue a close dialogue with Mexico on what we can do collectively to push back and defeat this challenge to our hemisphere.
QUESTION: But these comments by the Interior Minister Mont are – I don’t know if it’s that we’ve – both sides have always said that the U.S. has some responsibility. And in fact, Secretary Clinton has taken responsibility when she went down there for the U.S. role. But I mean, these comments by the interior secretary are some of the strongest, I think, that we’ve seen in terms of the tone. I mean, why --
MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s safe to say that we believe that more needs to be done on both sides of the border.
QUESTION: But there is not any way that this rhetoric can threaten the cooperation between both countries?
MR. CROWLEY: Not at all, not at all. We understand the commitment that President Calderon and his administration have. We share that commitment. We’re working hard with Mexico and other countries in the region. This certainly isn’t just about the United States and Mexico. And it’s a reason why the President and the Secretary have made multiple trips to Mexico. This comes up in our dialogue throughout the hemisphere. It’s something we’re very committed to.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: -- to North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Some initial reports are suggesting that it’s a North Korean torpedo that sunk this South Korean ship. I was wondering if that’s the assumption that the U.S. is making at this point, and if so, what are your – what are you urging in terms of a South Korean response?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re not making any assumptions at this point. The investigation is still ongoing.
QUESTION: The defense minister is apparently saying that the most likely cause was a torpedo. Does that not --
MR. CROWLEY: I think it was a conditional statement. I don’t know that the investigation has arrived at that final judgment. When it does, we’ll draw implications from it.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. doing? This could turn into something very serious. I mean, are you taking some sort of position on whether South Korea should respond if they were attacked militarily by --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, let’s reach the judgment – let’s get the investigation finalized. They have now – both parts of the ship have been brought up. We have a chance to look and we’ll be guided by the evidence that’s produced in the investigation.
QUESTION: On Japan, I have two questions, actually. First of all, the senate in the Northern Mariana Islands passed a resolution a couple weeks ago where they’re considering urging the DOD to have the relocation of Futenma to Tinian within their area. Is the U.S. Government ready to consider this as a possible alternative?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that Tinian has been a part of the planning that’s gone into this, but on the broader issue of Futenma, we’ll have Assistant Secretary Campbell in Tokyo tomorrow, and I’m sure that this will be one of the items discussed.
QUESTION: And also on that, there’s going to be meetings today at the State Department with some Japanese defense department officials. Can you give us any more details on those meetings – what will be discussed, who they’ll be meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll be happy to give you a readout afterwards.
QUESTION: Ambassador Robert King said in a statement today – he expressed concern about North Korea human rights and conditions and --
MR. CROWLEY: And rightfully so.
QUESTION: Yeah – and the rights of North Korean refugees. So do you think you can raise the issue – North Korean refugee – to China during the human rights dialogue?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a fair question. Normally, our issues center more on a particular population. But let’s – we’ll be happy to tell you if that came up during the course of our upcoming discussion.
QUESTION: One more on Mexico. Now the attacks are being perpetrated against the army and the federal police. Do you think we are seeing an increasing wave of attacks that maybe is turning this phase more violent and dangerous in Mexico?
MR. CROWLEY: As to the ebb and flow, that’s hard to evaluate. Certainly, these cartels are attacking institutions of government in Mexico. It’s one of the reasons we are focused not only on providing materiel that can help in this effort, but really helping to develop greater skills and resiliency within these institutions. And – but we know that’s a great challenge. We know that as governments take steps, these cartels respond in kind. And this remains a very difficult and a long-term challenge, but we are determined.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Japan again – I’m sorry, Japan again?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, one more.
QUESTION: Some media reports that the Japanese Government is moving toward accepting the current plan of Futenma. Have you – how do you recognize it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we’ll have – we look forward to discussions with the Japanese Government later this week. The government has indicated to us that they expect to provide us their plans, their formal response to the existing plan, in May. And in the meantime, we continue the dialogue with the government.
QUESTION: Do you still believe that the current plan is the best?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Do you still believe that the current plan is the best?
MR. CROWLEY: We haven’t changed our view on the existing plan, but we have been willing to exchange ideas with the Japanese Government and we look forward to this dialogue next – later this week.
QUESTION: Okay. There was a big rally held in Okinawa last --
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: There was a big rally held in Okinawa last Sunday and demanding for the – Futenma’s relocation off the island. You know --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. I mean, we understand that this is a difficult and emotional issue for the people of Japan and the people of Okinawa. And it’s one of the reasons we put so much effort into this and why we will – we continue the discussions with Japan on how to best carry this out.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)
DPB # 63
[i] Under Secretary for Political Affairs