1:28 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of things to talk about before taking your questions. The Secretary, pretty much now, is beginning a meeting with the former president of South Africa, Thabu Mbeki, who is the chairperson of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, and Haile Menkerios, United Nations special representative for the secretary general to Sudan, to discuss the current status of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement including preparations for the Southern Sudan and Abyei referenda in January 2011 and the status of discussions between the CPA parties on key issues. They will also discuss the conditions in Darfur. Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson and Special Envoy Scott Gration are participating in that meeting.
Earlier today, the Secretary spoke by phone with the Interim President Roza Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan. She expressed the condolences of the United States regarding the loss of life and injury in Kyrgyzstan. Today, I think, is a national day of mourning in Kyrgyzstan given the recent violence. But they talked about the current situation and both Kyrgyzstan’s immediate and long-term aid requirements.
Assistant Secretary Bob Blake, as you know, is in Tashkent and he had the opportunity to speak earlier today with the UN head of the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in the region, Miroslav Jenca, and they, too, talked about the current situation aid requirements. I think the UN is going to be coming forward in the coming days with an appeal for food aid. In connection with that, the United States has now committed over $6.5 million to provide immediate humanitarian response and stabilization assistance. This additional tranche of money will be provided through USAID. But again, we continue to monitor both Kyrgyzstan’s aid requirements, the status of its refugees, and will provide additional assistance as necessary. And Assistant Secretary Blake will be in Bishkek on Friday and Saturday, but before that will have the opportunity, I think, to travel earlier on Friday to the Fergana Valley and be able to see the humanitarian situation there firsthand.
The Secretary also today chaired the Millennium Challenge Corporation Board of Director’s quarterly meeting here at the State Department. The board discussed the progress of the MCC’s poverty reduction programs worldwide and continued its ongoing consideration of a compact with the Government of Philippines. The board also conducted a review of the effective – the effect of MCC investments and programs on helping address priority global issues such as long-term economic growth, global food security, maternal and child health and safety, transportation infrastructure improvements, and environmental protection.
And you also heard from the Secretary earlier as she announced the winners of the World Food Program Prize – World Food Prize awarded to David Beckham, the president of Bread for the World, and Jo Luck, president of Heifer International. The United States and international community are extending support for sustainable agricultural-led growth that will help people suffering around the world to lift themselves out of poverty. More than 1 billion people, one-sixth of the world’s population, suffer from chronic hunger. It keeps adults from being able to work, children from being able to learn, and societies from reaching their potential. Global food supplies need to increase by an estimated 50 percent to meet expected demand by 2030, and sustainable agriculture is a powerful tool to increase the availability and accessibility of food and reduce poverty.
QUESTION: P.J., I think you have soccer on the mind. It’s David Beckmann, not David Beckham. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, David Beckmann. And yes, we do. Good catch, Matt.
A couple more items really quick. Our consulate in Peshawar has not yet had the opportunity to meet with the American citizen detained by Pakistan. It’s not a cooperation issue. It’s actually simply a logistical issue given the distance from where he was detained. It’s taking some time for us to reach him and be able to have consular access to him.
QUESTION: Where is he?
MR. CROWLEY: He is in Pakistan.
QUESTION: He’s in – yeah, it’s a big country, though.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I know.
QUESTION: How far away from Peshawar is he?
MR. CROWLEY: He is being moved.
MR. CROWLEY: So we expect the meeting will take place in Peshawar.
Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon of European Affairs is, as we speak, making a speech on the U.S.-Russia relationship today at the German Marshall Fund. He’ll be underscoring that a robust relationship between our two countries is vital for the security of the United States and the world, that the new atmosphere in the relationship with Russia has led to practical cooperation in concrete areas from arms control and trade to Afghanistan and the Middle East, and that we have pursued this cooperation with Russia while standing firmly by our traditional European allies in defending their sovereignty, security, and independence.
And finally, George Mitchell will arrive in the region this evening. He expects to have meetings with Israeli officials tomorrow, Palestinian officials on Friday, and Egyptian officials on Saturday.
Over to you.
QUESTION: This is a continuation of the indirect talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Just on the Kyrgyzstan thing for a second. Yesterday, the amount of aid the U.S. had pledged or given was less than a million.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Today, it’s $6.5 million?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: What justifies a – what is that? Five – more than five million increase?
MR. CROWLEY: $5.7, yeah.
QUESTION: What is it and why this huge jump?
MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Kyrgyzstan has immediate needs – humanitarian situation along Osh – and so this assistance will flow through USAID. It is humanitarian assistance and we will be identifying, resourcing, and discussing plans for safe distribution of food and supplies as we go forward. But given our understanding of the displacement of people and the unrest there, that we are providing this additional resources through USAID.
QUESTION: But what is it?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s humanitarian and stabilization assistance.
QUESTION: Which is?
MR. CROWLEY: All right. That’s all I got.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes?
QUESTION: Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK terrorists today. We know that USA and Turkey has been sharing intelligence about northern Iraq. I wonder in what level USA is cooperating with Turkey in the latest offensive. Does this intelligence sharing continue?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the United States and Turkey are NATO allies, so we share information and cooperate on an ongoing and continual basis. I can’t say that the United States is directly involved in the action that Turkey has taken. These are security matters that directly affect the Turkish Government and the Turkish people. The PKK challenge for Turkey is a longstanding one. Turkey, like any country, has the right to defend itself against terrorist organizations, and we will continue to work with Turkey depending on how this goes. But we certainly understand the reasons behind the action.
QUESTION: I mean there’s like trilateral mechanism between Iraq, USA, and Turkey about this counterterrorism and it was like decided there to act more in a prompt way. So –
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I would defer to Turkey. I would – I believe that this is an action that Turkey made decisions about based on actions recently by the PKK. You’re quite right; this is an issue that the United States, Turkey, and Iraq have had longstanding discussions about, and clearly we want to see in the north of Iraq the end to these kinds of pockets that allow groups like the PKK to continue to operate.
QUESTION: I have one more follow-up, sir.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: The bilateral meeting – high-level bilateral meeting between USA and Turkey was scheduled about counterterrorism in Istanbul today, but in the last moment it was canceled by State Department Counterterrorism Officer Daniel Benjamin. Do you know the reason behind it?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question. I’m – that’s not something I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Israeli authorities have approved, yesterday, 1,600 new settlement units in East Jerusalem. Have you talked to the Israelis about this decision and how do you view it?
MR. CROWLEY: I will take the question as to whether we were informed about this latest announcement. It’s not something I’m aware of. We have had longstanding conversations with the parties about – and expressed our concerns over actions that are taken on a unilateral basis that can be impediments to progress on the talks that are underway. But I’ll take the question as to whether – to what extent we’re familiar with this particular announcement.
QUESTION: Well, wasn’t it the same 1,600 that were --
QUESTION: Yeah. They were --
QUESTION: Yeah. It was the same --
MR. CROWLEY: But I’m not – as I say, I was not aware of a new announcement, so that’s what caught me by surprise.
QUESTION: It’s the same one that was announced when Biden was there.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: But the committee has approved the 1,600 units yesterday.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, if this – if we’re talking about the one that we’ve been dealing with for a number of weeks, we’ve expressed our ongoing concerns to the Israeli Government over weeks about developments in East Jerusalem.
QUESTION: Are you familiar with this Aspen Institute report on Vietnam and Agent Orange? Do you have anything – saying it cost $300 million to clean up the mess. And if you are, do you have any comment on it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we recognize the dialogue group’s ongoing work on this sensitive bilateral issue. Their efforts have played an important role in facilitating cooperation between the United States and Vietnam. We have great interest in the dialogue group’s strategic plan and will look forward to reviewing the details.
QUESTION: And I have another one.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Cuba – the Cuban – Cuba has come out and said that the U.S. does not have the moral authority to applaud its release of prisoners if, in fact – which you – which was what you did the other day – that it’s not up to you to do this kind of thing. I’m wondering if you have a response to that.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, we have – we feel it’s a right and a responsibility to express our human rights concerns about any country of the world, including Cuba. And we are encouraged by the release of Ariel Sigler Amaya.
The United States is committed to a policy towards Cuba that advances our national interests and supports the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future. We will continue to engage the Cuban Government on issues that are of mutual concern and that advance U.S. national interests. I think it is clear that, to the extent that Cuba desires a more normal relationship with the United States, that will depend upon steps that Cuba takes to open up its society, to respect the human rights and freedoms of their own people. And as Cuba takes these kinds of steps, we will respond appropriately.
So it is in Cuba’s interest to advance the – to advance their political process, open up their society for greater opportunity for their people and – but we will continue and not hesitate to comment about the human rights situation in Cuba and elsewhere.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Michel.
QUESTION: Is there anything about the nuclear cooperation with Jordan? And Amman is blaming Israel for saying that Israel is trying to undermine Amman’s nuclear procurement efforts. Do you have anything on this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue to have discussions with the Jordanian Government on these issues just as we have discussions based on the desires of many countries in the region to expand civilian nuclear energy. And we – this is part of the same kind of dialogue we’ve had with the UAE and other countries in the region, and we will continue that dialogue.
MR. CROWLEY: We tweet all the time here at the Department of State.
QUESTION: Yeah. But you urged China to hold transparent judicial processes. There’s no trials, as far as we’re aware of, coming up at the time of the anniversary of the Xinjiang unrest.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are still people who are in custody as we come up on the first anniversary. We want to see any trial that would be forthcoming or any legal action that would be forthcoming be done transparently and granting the citizens of Xinjiang and other places their full rights under China’s and international law.
QUESTION: Do you have signs that there are going to be some trials? Do you have any --
MR. CROWLEY: No, I think we’re just reflecting on the fact that, coming up on the first anniversary, some of the same tensions that sparked the unrest a year ago still exist. And it is certainly in China’s interest to continue to work to address the underlying tensions that created this conflict in the first place.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:46 p.m.)
DPB # 95
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