1:35 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A number of things to talk about before taking your questions.
Obviously, we at the Department of State continue to do everything that we can in support of the ongoing investigation of the attempted bombing in Times Square last weekend. Our focus is primarily overseas. Today, Ambassador Anne Patterson had meetings with President Zardari, Foreign Minister Qureshi, she spoke with Pakistani Interior Minister Malik. She will continue to have other meetings with senior Pakistani officials in the coming days to work collectively on this investigation.
Richard Holbrooke this morning also had a conversation with Foreign Minister Qureshi. The Pakistanis are fully cooperating in the investigation. They recognize, as we do, that this is a shared responsibility and a shared threat to both of us. During the course of the conversation between Ambassador Holbrooke and Foreign Minister Qureshi, he mentioned Pakistan’s gratitude for the strong statement by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York regarding – cautioning everyone to avoid any backlash against Muslims who are Pakistani Americans. Obviously, there are hundreds of thousands of Pakistani Americans here in the United States. They enrich our society and our culture and we value them as part of the American community. I’m sure you’ll have more questions for me on that subject.
Turning to the oil spill, we have 13 countries and entities, the United Nations and a number of countries who have offered specific assistance. Again, as a policy matter, we’re not going to identify those offers of assistance until we are able to see what we need, assess the ongoing situation. And as we accept those offers of assistance, we will inform you. But the nature of the assistance that has been offered by many, many friends and neighbors in this hemisphere and elsewhere include oil dispersant, booms, skimmers, oil pumps, and engineers and other experts. And as we – as I said yesterday, the Coast Guard is taking the lead in terms of evaluating what we need, but we do expect to make decisions on some of these offers of assistance in the next day or two.
U.S. Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is currently in Juba continuing his discussions with leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government of Southern Sudan to discuss the remaining issues around the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and preparations for the January 2011 referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan. He travels to Darfur tomorrow, where he will meet with United Nations and African Union – the African Union mission in Darfur.
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell departed Washington last night. He should arrive in Canberra some time later today. He will participate in the commemorative service marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. He will also be holding meetings not only with government officials and opposition leaders while he’s in Australia. He will then move to Manila on May 7, where he will represent the United States at the 23rd U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue. And then during his time in Manila, he will also participate in the U.S.-lower Mekong senior officials meeting. He will make other stops in the region while he is there, but the remainder of his itinerary is still under – yet to be determined.
In Honduras, we welcome the launch yesterday of the Truth Commission, which fulfills a key element of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. The Truth Commission, which we fully support, is expected to undertake important fact-finding responsibilities, including implementing the report of human rights abuses that occurred in relation to the coup and during the period of the de facto regime.
Our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly and Deputy Assistant Secretary Julissa Reynoso also attended the ceremony yesterday in Honduras to launch the Truth Commission and demonstrate our support for this important step towards Honduran national reconciliation. Also in the region, Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela is now in Panama, leading the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Central American Integration System, or SICA, dialogue. While in Panama, he will also meet with President Ricardo Martinelli, Vice President and Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela and other representatives from civil society, academia, and the private sector.
Tomorrow, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Phil Gordon will host the first global issues dialogue between the United States and Norway here at the Department of State. The Norwegian delegation will be led by State Secretary Gry Larsen. Issues to be discuss include climate change, the Arctic, global health, water, human rights, European security, nonproliferation and disarmament.
Later today – late this afternoon, USAID Administrator Raj Shah will deliver a speech on USAID’s approach to high-impact development nearby here at George Washington University, hosted by the Global Leadership Coalition. I think that speech starts at 4 p.m.
Senator George Mitchell has completed a good and productive meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu this evening and will continue his discussions with the prime minister tomorrow night. He will see President Abbas on Friday evening and also Saturday. And we hope and expect formally to move forward with the proximity talks before Senator Mitchell leaves the region on Sunday.
And finally before taking you questions, over the past few hours, we’ve done an intensive search here at the Department of State – every nook and cranny, every rock – and we can safely report that Usama bin Ladin is not here. (Laughter.)
No, it was an interview with the president --
QUESTION: Right – greater Washington or you’ve looked at the State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: Just the confines of our State Department, but it was reported by the president of Iran that he is here in Washington. That’s news to us.
QUESTION: Let’s --
MR. CROWLEY: And thank you for laughing, by the way.
QUESTION: Let’s hope we don’t find him here after you’ve said that.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m pretty confident of that.
QUESTION: I don’t know. There were some strange looking people down at the cafeteria. (Laughter.) On Pakistan – on Pakistan?
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific about these conversations that Ambassador Patterson had and Ambassador Holbrooke had with their interlocutors?
MR. CROWLEY: In what respect? Well, I mean, the investigation is obviously ongoing. The FBI and Justice Department are in the lead. Pakistan is taking its own steps and we expect we’ll do more as more information is yielded through this investigation. So I think we have a full and complete pledge of cooperation from Pakistan. We’re heartened by that. And we will move forward step by step as we go through this and try to determine who else might be implicated.
QUESTION: Yeah, but what did they talk about?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the --
QUESTION: Did Patterson walk into Zardari’s office and he said “We’re going to cooperate fully,” and she said “Great, thanks,” and then left? What did they – can you – I mean, is there any substance there?
MR. CROWLEY: Of course there’s substance there, but – I mean, we will be exchanging information as the investigation is ongoing. Whatever leads are generated --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, was there an exchange?
MR. CROWLEY: -- here in the United States, we would fully expect Pakistan to follow up on. Pakistan, as you’re seeing, has already taken its own steps. I’ll defer to the Pakistani Government to describe what it is doing. So we are touching all the right bases. You have law enforcement, intelligence officials that have established contact with their counterparts in Pakistan. And I mean, remember, we are still in the early stages of this investigation.
QUESTION: Right. I guess – but I just – what was the purpose of these meetings?
MR. CROWLEY: The purpose of the meetings was to operationalize that as we have an investigation here, it is to inform Pakistan that we – there are clear links to Pakistan and that we would fully expect them to do what they should do and what they have been doing. I mean, as you know, Pakistan has itself faced this significant threat. Probably in the last year, there have been more Pakistanis killed by terrorists than in any other country. We’ve long recognized that this is – it’s a shared threat, it’s a shared responsibility, and there’s a commitment on both sides to fully cooperate as this investigation unfolds.
Once you get that kind of political commitment, then it moves down through the relevant agencies. And we are encouraged by Pakistan’s response since the bombing happened, or the attempted bombing happened on Saturday.
QUESTION: That means that you’re pleased with what they’ve done so far?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to Pakistan to --
QUESTION: I’m not asking what they’ve done.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean --
QUESTION: Are you happy with what they’ve done so far?
MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s more a matter of what we do from this point forward.
QUESTION: P.J., let me try it a little different way. Did they talk about arrests that the Pakistanis had made?
MR. CROWLEY: I will defer to – we are certainly aware of various reports of arrests. We don’t have a number that we can verify. That really is for Pakistan to announce. Obviously, the individual in custody had links to Pakistan, has family members in Pakistan, and I think we understand that there are – that law enforcement have made contacts with family members and are questioning them and are (inaudible) taking their own steps to do their part of this investigation.
QUESTION: Look. Ambassador Patterson was in a meeting with senior Pakistani officials.
MR. CROWLEY: We are not --
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: -- announce arrests. You say you’ve seen reports of arrests. Did the subject of arrests come up in a meeting that your ambassador was in -- or in the meetings?
MR. CROWLEY: I happened to talk to Ambassador Patterson this morning myself. I asked her about that issue. And she indicated, at this point, we are not in a position to verify any number of arrests by Pakistan.
QUESTION: There have been some reports about ties between Pakistan’s ISI and militants in Waziristan. Did this come up at all with Ambassador – did Ambassador Patterson bring this up at all?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, without prejudicing the current investigation, let me take it slightly higher. This has been a topic of conversation between the United States and Pakistan for several years. And obviously, Pakistan in the last couple of years has recognized that elements in the past that Pakistan has supported and links – potential links between terrorist networks or terrorist organizations now threatens not only regional security, but Pakistan itself.
So – but let’s not jump ahead of the current investigation. Clearly, there are international implications to what occurred in Times Square. We are investigating those. We would expect Pakistan – and would fully expect Pakistan will help us with that. But as to where that investigation takes us, this is still way too early to make that judgment.
QUESTION: P.J., a change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: No, wait. Can we stay – can we please stay on this?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you seeking access to anyone who might be detained by the Pakistanis? Have you requested --
MR. CROWLEY: Since – we are not aware of any specific arrests at this point, but I think you safely – safe to say that our law enforcement-intelligence relationship is very strong. Should there be arrests and should we see clear links to what happened here – we have, in the past, asked for that kind of access, but that’s more an issue for Justice.
QUESTION: Well, but wouldn’t the request come from you? And in the past, you asked – you have asked for access, and you’ve been turned down.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Well, all right. This is part of the investigation, and for that, I would defer to Justice. But I think we are confident in our – the relationship we have, and let’s let the investigation take its course.
QUESTION: Well, but the record isn’t – the record of cooperation in this area is not – I mean, you haven’t yet ever been able to talk to A.Q. Khan.
MR. CROWLEY: I think – put it – rest assured that Pakistan understands that this investigation is important to the United States, it is important to Pakistan. We will expect full cooperation. There has been a pledge of full cooperation. And now as we go forward, I think based on those strong political commitments, I think we are confident that we can work through those issues together.
QUESTION: Did the ambassador – when she met with Zardari and Qureshi, did she give a – sort of a list of things that the U.S. would consider full cooperation? You say we expect to have it in (inaudible) future. Is there a game plan for how this goes forward – that she was bringing to them?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that – I mean, as our investigation here proceeds, and to the extent it points to possible events in Pakistan, I expect we will make specific requests of Pakistan in terms of cooperation. But we’re still very early in the investigation.
QUESTION: Just following up, did the ambassador give a list of names of associates of the suspect Shahzad here, to check out?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean that – those are the kinds of things that are – that can be done at that level, but it also can be done at a working level.
QUESTION: So you --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m just trying to say, look, I’m not going to get into the tos and fros of the investigation of itself. We are confident that we have a pledge of cooperation from Pakistan. I think there’s a mutual recognition of why this is important to both countries. And now, we’ve got to let the investigation take its course.
QUESTION: So is that essentially what the meeting – the two meetings were, is just getting a pledge of cooperation?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to – I wasn’t in the meetings with the ambassador and the president and the foreign minister.
QUESTION: Well, you spoke to Ambassador Patterson.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. I’m just – I’m telling – but –
QUESTION: When you came out and you announced that these meetings had happened, it was the first thing you said.
MR. CROWLEY: We came away from these contacts today with full confidence that we are on the same page in terms of how this investigation will proceed.
QUESTION: Just to pin something else down, did Ambassador Patterson have any meetings with Pakistani officials yesterday as well, or just today? And the same for Ambassador Holbrooke, in addition to the (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: I think yesterday, Ambassador Holbrooke talked with Ambassador Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. I’m sure that Anne Patterson had contacts with Pakistani officials yesterday. I mean, she meets with them all the time, so it could well be that she had regularly scheduled meetings and then this issue was part of that discussion.
QUESTION: P.J., on the oil slick, you mentioned that it’s a policy matter that you’re not revealing the names. And yet during Katrina, the U.S. Government actually did reveal the names. Why not --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’m not saying we won’t.
QUESTION: -- do it – why not do it at this point, because --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not saying we won’t. I’m saying that once we evaluate the offers of assistance as we accept them, we will let you know.
QUESTION: Yes, but if – at this point, when there are countries that are out there that are offering assistance --
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and the U.S. basically just kind of puts that aside and says wait until we find out what we need, why not – it just seems almost insulting to those countries. Why not thank them now and then get to the point of --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, to those countries that have offered assistance, we do thank them now. And if they choose to make available in public what they have offered us, that’s up to them.
QUESTION: Have you thanked them --
MR. CROWLEY: Huh?
QUESTION: -- publicly? We don’t even know who they are.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – obviously, between embassies here and posts where these countries have offered assistance, we have already thanked them for their offer and we are evaluating those offers. As we accept those offers, at that point we’ll make that information public.
QUESTION: Do you consider the Iranian offer of assistance --
MR. CROWLEY: There was no Iranian offer of assistance.
QUESTION: There was no Iranian offer?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, in his various media interviews yesterday, it’s possible that President Ahmadinejad mentioned an offer of support, but there is no offer of support from the Iranian Government at this point.
QUESTION: There is an offer from the NDIC, you know, the National Iranian Drilling Company, I believe it is, which has been reported in the Iranian media.
MR. CROWLEY: We have received no offer from any Iranian entity.
QUESTION: It seems like it’s been quite a while since this began. Can you help us understand why it’s taking so long to figure out what you need?
MR. CROWLEY: For that, I would defer to the Coast Guard. I mean, as we go through – I mean, I’ll defer to the Coast Guard in terms of – I mean, of how we’re deploying things and how this kind of equipment and personnel may fit into that. But the Coast Guard has taken the lead in terms of the evaluation of assistance.
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: We’re coordinating that, but as to whether we feel we need this particular technology, that’s a Coast Guard decision.
QUESTION: Could I just make sure that I understand? When you say no – received no offer from any Iranian entity, does that mean government entity?
MR. CROWLEY: There’s no Iranian entity that has come to the State Department and offered any assistance, okay, whether they’ve released a press release or something else. But we have no information that any Iranian entity at this point has offered us any assistance.
QUESTION: Well, if you won’t tell us which countries have offered, maybe you can go down the list of countries that haven’t.
MR. CROWLEY: Something between 13 and 192.
QUESTION: Yeah. I don’t understand, if you’re willing to say that there was no offer from Iran, why you’re not willing to say where there were --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I understand the question.
QUESTION: But you’re not going to answer it?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: I cannot verify what Kim Jong-il has said anywhere in China. We obviously are aware he’s there. It’s been reported there will be meetings between senior Chinese officials and North Korean officials tomorrow. We have shared our views with China in anticipation of this meeting. We hope that North Korea will live up to its obligations and meet its commitments. We hope that North Korea will cease its provocative behavior, but then we’ll see what comes out of the meeting tomorrow.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) your understanding was that he was there. Do you know if he has his son with him?
MR. CROWLEY: I – we do not.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, you do not know or you don’t --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t. I don’t --
QUESTION: You don’t know; not that you don’t believe that he --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: Thank you. That was --
QUESTION: Does the provocative behavior include anything that happened to a South Korean naval vessel a few weeks ago?
MR. CROWLEY: On that, we continue to support South Korea as it investigates that incident.
QUESTION: If I understand, then you think the response to sinking of Cheonan and the resumption of Six-Party Talks separate as two track; is that right?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, North Korea’s behavior has affected the pace of talks in the past. We are fully supportive of South Korea’s investigation, and obviously, when that investigation is completed, we will all draw conclusions and implicate – and then we’ll have potential implications. Let’s get to the end of the investigation first.
QUESTION: On Mitchell?
MR. CROWLEY: Hold. A follow-up?
QUESTION: Follow-up. You said on this podium yesterday you hope that North Korea will come back to Six-Party Talks. It means if Kim Jong-il in Beijing right now make decision and express come back to Six-Party Talks, you take part in Six-Party Talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are a couple of ifs there. Let’s see, but – I mean, we are – there are things that North Korea has to do if this process is going to move forward. And its behavior, living up to its obligations, meeting its commitments that it’s made over a number of years – those are things that North Korea has to do. And let’s see what they’re prepared to do. Meanwhile, we’ll take note of the meeting tomorrow and we’ll continue to work with South Korea on this investigation.
QUESTION: On Mitchell?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: He met with Netanyahu today. What did they talk about? Are they any closer to – are you any closer to getting what you want out of the Israelis?
MR. CROWLEY: I think let’s go through – we have a sequence of meetings with a variety of officials. It might be more fruitful to get through the weekend, come back, and he’ll report to the Secretary as to what was discussed. But clearly, the benefit of these talks – issues can be discussed, they can be evaluated, and follow-up meetings can further refine what was discussed. So I don’t have a particular readout from George Mitchell today, but we’re going to have multiple meetings on the Israeli side and multiple meetings on the Palestinian side. It’s hard to characterize after one of a series of meetings where we are.
QUESTION: Is it your view that the proximity talks have, in fact, now begun?
MR. CROWLEY: It is our view that George Mitchell is in the region. He is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials. I think on the Palestinian side, they have, in consultations in light of the Arab League meeting and decision of last weekend – they want to consult with their own leadership. So at the end of these string of meetings, we’ll be in a position to characterize where we are.
QUESTION: Well – so, in other words, you don’t think that they’d be – this doesn’t – this isn’t any --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to characterize. There are meetings going on. I’m not going to characterize what they mean until we finish the --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. CROWLEY: -- four days.
QUESTION: Just to go back, I mean, you’re saying you can’t characterize the meetings that Mitchell had with Netanyahu, but you did say that they were good and productive. I’m wondering what – on what basis you label them thus.
MR. CROWLEY: George Mitchell left the meeting and said they were good and productive.
QUESTION: But he didn’t give you any details?
MR. CROWLEY: And you know George Mitchell as well as I do. He’s --
QUESTION: Probably not.
MR. CROWLEY: He keeps particulars to himself.
QUESTION: I have another one.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: On – this also has to do with Israel. It’s about, actually, the P-5 statement in the UN today on the Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone and the P-5 all saying that they back committing to full implementation of the 1995 resolution to that. And I’m wondering why does the U.S. feel – why did you join in this statement today? And what do you think needs to be done in order to bring that 1995 resolution to fruition?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – and I think we’re going to release as a Media Note the formal text of that agreement here shortly. As the Secretary affirmed in New York on Monday, we continue to support the 1995 resolution on the Middle East. And with this P-5+1 reaffirmation, if you will, I think that puts us in a position to continue to promote this and the further discussions that we’ll have within the NPT, including with nonaligned countries. So this is obviously an issue of importance for them and we will continue to talk about this through the course of the RevCon.
QUESTION: The Secretary said, if I remember right, that the conditions were not right yet for this to happen. What conditions need to be in place in order for this to actually come into force? What isn’t there that needs to be there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, a comprehensive peace agreement would be helpful.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, significant progress in that direction, I think might give people confidence that the conditions could emerge that allow this to advance.
QUESTION: Well, even if Iran is still acting the way it’s acting now?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, a comprehensive peace --
QUESTION: It wouldn’t include Iran, I don’t believe, would it?
MR. CROWLEY: But a comprehensive peace would indicate that groups that Iran has supported that, have up until now, undercut progress in – towards Middle East peace might themselves be willing to accept Israel and recognize existing agreements and themselves be willing to become a constructive part of the process.
QUESTION: But Iran itself, which Israel regards as an existential threat, that wouldn’t be a part of that. So are you of the opinion that if there is a comprehensive peace, that Israel will be able --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not making any bold --
QUESTION: Israel will give up its nukes?
MR. CROWLEY: -- predictions of the future. I’m just saying that, as an example, progress towards Middle East peace is the kind of thing that would give people confidence to consider things like the – to pursue things like the vision of a region without weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: No, wait, wait. I’ve got one more. The chorus of people calling for Scott Gration to be removed from his position is getting larger and larger by the day. The latest was Congressman Wolf, who has been very active in this issue. I’m wondering if General Gration – is he a general?
MR. CROWLEY: He is a retired major general --
QUESTION: He’s a retired general.
MR. CROWLEY: -- in the Air Force.
QUESTION: Gration – if he still has the confidence of the Secretary and the Administration and if – or if you’re planning on doing what Congressman Wolf says, which is for the Secretary and for Ambassador Rice to take over his portfolio.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, General Gration remains our special envoy. He is on the ground in Sudan as we speak. He helped, along with others, including the Secretary and Ambassador Rice, shape our Sudan policy. It is our firm belief that we have no time to waste. You are going to see later this week with the inauguration of President Kiir and later in the month with the installation of the northern government that you have the institutions that are necessary for – to proceed with full implementation of the CPA. That’s Scott’s message in the region this week, that we face a very steep hill towards the referendum in January. And should the South vote to secede, it’s only six months from that point to where you have the emergence of a new country.
So there’s no time to waste. There’s a lot of very complex and important issues that have to be resolved – border demarcation, how to resolve and share energy resources within Sudan. So that has been our focus. Scott Gration has helped us shape this policy and he has the full confidence of the Administration and the Secretary of State.
QUESTION: So all of your contingency planning now is based on the assumption that they are going to – that the South is going to secede?
MR. CROWLEY: They will get to vote in January. But we have to be prepared for a vote that will lead to a new country in January 2011.
QUESTION: Are you prepared for a vote the other way, or do you – you just don’t think that’s going to happen?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that ultimately is a decision for the people of --
QUESTION: No, I know. But it’s --
MR. CROWLEY: -- of South Sudan, of Abyei, Blue Nile, others. But we have to be prepared for that possibility. And for those who know Sudan – you’re one of them – that is a very distinct possibility --
MR. CROWLEY: -- if not probability.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:07 p.m.)
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