1:32 p.m. EDTMR. CROWLEY:
A few things to talk about. The Secretary had calls this morning with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko following up on the visit in April to Washington by President Viktor Yanukovych and also talked with Greek Foreign Minister Yeoryios Papandreou about the situation in Gaza,
Iran, and other regional issues.
A short time ago, we released a statement on the anniversary of
Tiananmen Square. It is now 21 years since the tragic events occurred on June 4, 1989 in and around Tiananmen Square. We join others in the international community to urge China to release all those still serving sentences for participating in peaceful protests at that time and since. We ask the Chinese Government to provide the fullest possible public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, and to cease harassment of those who participated in the demonstrations and the families of the victims. We also encourage China to protect the universal human rights of all its citizens, including those who peacefully dissent.
Turning to Africa, the United States is deeply disturbed by the apparent assassination of noted Congolese human rights leader Floribert Chebeya and the disappearance of his driver Fidele Bazana in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Chebeya’s body was found in his car on Tuesday morning. Mr. Bazana has not been heard from since the two men told colleagues on the evening of June 1 that they were en route to a meeting with the Inspector General of the Congolese National Police, who allegedly summoned Mr. Chebeya.
The United States extends its condolences to his family and friends and calls for an immediate investigation. We and others have offered to help in that investigation to determine the cause and manner of his death. We remain hopeful that Mr. Bazana will be located unharmed and that the Government of the DRC will respect the rights of all of its citizens and ensure the safety of all of its human rights activists.
Also we put out a response in a media note yesterday that we did have a meeting here at the State Department yesterday afternoon with senior officials from the Bureau of Consular and African Affairs and the Office of Legal Adviser with family members of Peter Erlinder. Mr. Erlinder was released from the hospital yesterday evening and is back in his retention cell. And we continue to expect that the Rwandan authorities will accord him due process in a timely and transparent manner, and we look for a compassionate and expeditious resolution.
George Mitchell has left the region after completing another round of indirect talks between the parties. The talks were constructive and substantive, and both parties reiterated their commitment to reaching our common goal of comprehensive peace. He was in the region, in addition to meetings with
Israeli and Palestinian officials, to attend the Palestine Investment Conference. And Arab business leaders and members of the international community came together and France, Italy, and the United States pledged a combined 655 million for the development of the Palestinian private sector. These funds will work to stimulate the Palestinian economy, support institution building, and lay the foundation of a future Palestinian state. And despite the recent Gaza flotilla incident, the Palestinian Investment Conference continued as scheduled and generated positive momentum for future Palestinian economic development.
Secretary Gates is in Singapore as is Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro. He has attended meetings with Singapore’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Peter Ho and Permanent Secretary for Defense Chiang Chie Foo and joins Secretary Gates in meetings with officials from India,
South Korea, and Vietnam. The Shangri-La Dialogue is Asia’s premier security summit among 300 defense ministers, government officials, and policy experts from 27 countries and has offered us a great opportunity to touch base with traditional allies, as well as to gain a better appreciation for the positions of partner countries that are of growing importance to us in the region, such as India, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Vietnam, among others.
And finally, before taking your questions, we – you’ve seen this week – a release of the – of a report from the Office of the Inspector General on the Embassy in Baghdad. We take the OIG report seriously. We have implemented corrective measures and improved property accountability. We are confident that measures are in place to prevent any such problems in the future. The audit report is a snapshot in time and does not portray current conditions. The audit was conducted in Baghdad from July through November 2009 during a – in a period of transition at the Embassy. The Embassy took quick action to address all the points raised in the report and audit, and immediately began implementing a plan to track more precisely the inventory of property.
I think our NEA Bureau is standing by after this for anybody who wants to follow up with additional details on that audit report.QUESTION:
Well, just on that, you know, why wait so long to release it if it’s no longer accurate? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, the audit report, then – the timing of the release was up to the Office of Inspector General, not the State Department. QUESTION:
Well, but the Office of Inspector General is part of the State Department. MR. CROWLEY:
I understand that, but -- QUESTION:
So why -- MR. CROWLEY:
-- but they operate independently -- QUESTION:
-- questions from the -- MR. CROWLEY:
I’m sorry. What? QUESTION:
Well, I’m getting – I was getting asked why, you know, what prompted stories about this now? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, the report was formally released this week. QUESTION:
Right, okay, so that’s the explanation.
Can I ask you very briefly on the DRC, your statement there? MR. CROWLEY:
Last night, the guidance on this said you were calling for an immediate and independent investigation to determine what happened to these two – these guys. I noticed that the word independent was missing from your comment today. Was that a conscious decision? MR. CROWLEY:
It – again, we – the United Nations has offered, we have offered, the -- QUESTION:
Is that no longer part of the guidance, the word independent? MR. CROWLEY:
The DRC is capable of conducting an investigation. We – they may require some technical assistance, but we are available in the event that we can support an investigation. Or if the DRC wants to turn this over to an independent body, we would support that. QUESTION:
Well, then why wouldn’t you support the Israelis turning over their investigation of the flotilla incident to an independent investigation? MR. CROWLEY:
We think that Israel is fully capable of conducting – I – you’re mixing apples and oranges, Matt. I -- QUESTION:
Well, I’m just curious as to why the word independent is missing -- MR. CROWLEY:
I wouldn’t -- QUESTION:
-- because I raised this yesterday when I was told this and made the same comparison and now all of the sudden the word independent is missing, so I’m just curious if there’s a reason for that. MR. CROWLEY:
You’re saying no. MR. CROWLEY:
I’m saying that I would not draw a comparison to the capabilities of the Government of Israel and the capabilities of the Government of -- QUESTION:
Okay, that’s all I wanted to know. MR. CROWLEY:
-- the DRC. That said, I mean, both governments have an opportunity to conduct investigations on their own. We are confident that Israel can conduct an impartial investigation. We have less confidence in the DRC. QUESTION:
Does the government have any further information on the circumstances surrounding the death of the Turkish American? MR. CROWLEY:
Nothing I can add here. We continue to talk to Israeli officials and are gathering information, as we indicated earlier this week. QUESTION:
Nothing further on any autopsy reports or the actual – the numbers of shots, all of those things that were raised yesterday? MR. CROWLEY:
You said yesterday that the U.S. was still evaluating its options with what to do in terms of its own investigation into that particular death or its own participation in any sort of investigation the Israelis might do. Do you have any more -- MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I mean, we are in touch with Israeli officials and other officials on not only how to evaluate the nine deaths on board these ships, including one American citizen, but also the broader aspect of what happened and, more importantly, what – how to go about improving the conditions in Gaza while protecting Israel’s legitimate security interest.
The Secretary, in talking to Foreign Minister – or Prime Minister Papandreou, discussed some ideas. We’re considering and discussing a wide range of options that we’re – the international community can support Israel in meeting these twin challenges of providing greater assistance to the people of Gaza and also protecting Israel’s legitimate concerns. So we’re going through the whole range of issues here and see what Israel is prepared to do and how the international community and the United States can help. QUESTION:
Are you suggesting there’s another new international channel that they’re looking to create for aid to go into Gaza? Is that what you’re saying? MR. CROWLEY:
Again, we’re looking at a – there’s a broad international interest in supporting the people of Gaza. And we are in a broadening discussion with a range of partner countries on how to best accomplish that. QUESTION:
All right, and then – sorry. And then just back to my initial question, whether there was any U.S. – whether there’s going to be -- MR. CROWLEY:
Well, and regarding the investigation, we continue to talk to Israel about how that investigation will be conducted and, as the Secretary has indicated, perhaps how there might be an international role for this, including a role for the United States. QUESTION:
P.J., could you just – following up on that, could you just give us an idea of what they are – what the thinking is, what some of those ideas might be? MR. CROWLEY:
We’re talking – we’re thinking through and talking to Israel about a wide range of options. I’m not going to bring them to the podium at this point. QUESTION:
Do you have any update on the contacts that you’ve had about the new – the other ships that are heading towards Gaza now? Urging restraints or whatever it is that you’re doing? MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, everybody wants to avoid another confrontation and avoid a repeat of Monday’s tragic event. We have been in touch with the Irish Government. Deputy Secretary Jack Lew had an extensive conversation with the Irish foreign minister yesterday. They are in turn in touch with the individuals on board the Rachel Corrie
. We would hope to see the Rachel Corrie
and other vessels work with Israeli authorities to deliver these materials to Gaza. That’s part of the conversation that we’re having and how can we do this in a way where groups that have a vital interest in seeing the expansion of goods to the people of Gaza have confidence that those materials will actually reach the people of Gaza and various groups that are working to help the people of Gaza.
So we are working with the Israelis, we’re working with the Palestinian Authority, we’re – other international partners. We’re looking to see how we can best accomplish this. And we hope in the meantime that everybody here will make responsible decisions and avoid unnecessary confrontations.
Do you have any comment on South Korea’s report on North Korea to the UN Security Council today on the Cheonan
? MR. CROWLEY:
South Korea did formally circulate a letter to the Security Council today and I’ll defer to South Korea to comment on the specifics in the letter. I believe the letter was accompanied by a copy of the full report of the South Korean investigation. And I believe that South Korea has requested that the Security Council duly consider this matter and respond appropriately in light of the North Korean provocation. QUESTION:
(Inaudible) Iran? MR. CROWLEY:
All right. QUESTION:
You’ve said that you were going to – that the U.S. is going to help South Korea fully on this effort and I’m wondering how you are going to help them because South Korea doesn’t have a seat in the Security Council. MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we have supported South Korea’s decision to bring this matter to the Security Council, and now in the coming days the Council will have the opportunity to consider it and an appropriate response. QUESTION:
Are you going to co-sponsor a resolution or something, with South Korea? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I think – at this point, I don’t think anyone’s necessarily got a specific idea of exactly what the response should be. I don’t think that South Korea called necessarily for a specific response. We’ll consider this within the Security Council. And I think as South Korea has indicated, it wants the Security Council to act appropriately, given the severity of the North Korean sinking of the Cheonan
Can you tell us the reason why you postponed the joint military exercise with South Korea in the Yellow Sea?MR. CROWLEY:
I’ll defer to the Pentagon.QUESTION:
Do you have any comment about President Karzai’s loya jirga – peace jirga?MR. CROWLEY:
I think the Embassy put out a statement on that. I think we will continue to support the Afghan-led efforts on reconciliation and reintegration. We thought the peace jirga accomplished its objectives and has provided some – a national consensus to pursue a political strategy to reduce the danger posed by the insurgency. And we will be – continue to support
Afghanistan as it goes forward.QUESTION:
Do you have any comment on this Burmese opposition group report saying that North Korea’s helping them with a nuclear weapons program?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, as we’ve said many times, we share international concerns for
Burma’s intentions and its relationship with North Korea. And we expect Burma, just as we expect all countries, to live up to their international obligations.QUESTION:
Do you have anything to say about their suggestion that North Korea is, in fact, helping them? I think the Secretary said something about this last July when she was Thailand, but whether you think that still holds true.MR. CROWLEY:
We continue to have these concerns. We continue to watch transactions between North Korea and Burma and we continue to encourage Burma to meet its international obligations including those in the area of nonproliferation.QUESTION:
Do you have any comment on –QUESTION:
Did that guidance change from what you said yesterday? I’m just curious. No? I mean, there isn’t any – nothing has happened in terms of, between yesterday and today, that would change your – the answer you gave yesterday?MR. CROWLEY:
Japan. MR. CROWLEY:
There is a White House statement that just went out. Certainly, we look forward to working with the new government and we congratulate Prime Minister Kan on his becoming the next prime minister. And the alliance is strong and remains a cornerstone of peace and security in East Asia. And we look forward to working cooperatively with them on a wide range of issues facing our two nations.QUESTION:
New line?MR. CROWLEY:
The Turkish ambassador said this morning there had been a response today to the – Iran’s letter to the IAEA, but he wasn’t clear whether the response came from the Vienna group of the IAEA itself. Can you shed some light?MR. CROWLEY:
We have responded to the IAEA regarding the Iranian letter and the joint declaration. We’ll take the question as to whether that was a response by the United States only. I think it actually was our response 
. I think each country of the Vienna group was responding individually. But we – as we’ve said many times, we’ve continued to have concerns about Iran’s noncompliance with its international obligations, its continued enrichment, and we will continue to work on these issues both in Vienna and in New York.QUESTION:
In keeping with the sporting theme, the World Cup’s about a week away, but you issued a – MR. CROWLEY:
You issued a travel warning, however, for Americans going there. Can you explain why you issued the travel warning and do you have any specific concerns?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, the World Cup is probably the most recognizable sporting event in the world. Maybe the Olympics rival it. Some countries play hockey, some countries play baseball, but every country plays football. So we understand the potential that – the attractive target that the World Cup makes. We have been helping
South Africa with the security arrangements and we will do everything in our power supporting South Africa to ensure a safe and competitive World Cup. But clearly, given the increased risk that we understand is possible given this venue, that’s why we put out the travel warning.QUESTION:
Any specific concerns about the favorite game everybody’s looking forward to in a week, the USA-England game? MR. CROWLEY:
All part of our special relationship. (Laughter.)
Just about the special relationship. The Secretary issued today a statement to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday, which apparently – MR. CROWLEY:
-- Buckingham Palace said that that the official birthday was – MR. CROWLEY:
We were a week early. (Laughter.) As always, better to give a greeting a week early than a week late. QUESTION:
Oh, wait, wait. MR. CROWLEY:
Have you gotten yet an extradition request for this producer from
Mexico – this television producer who was accused of –MR. CROWLEY:
You have not?MR. CROWLEY:
(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)
The United States, Russia and France provided Director General Amano with our joint response to Iran’s latest communication to the IAEA.