1:14 p.m. EDTMR. CROWLEY:
Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Several things to talk about before taking your questions. A short time ago, you noticed the Secretary released a statement on the passing of Senator Robert C. Byrd. I will just mention a couple of things in the statement. The Secretary indicated that Senator Byrd was a man of surpassing eloquence and nobility. She will remember him for his heartfelt comment made in the dark days following September 11th
by saying that “Think of me as a third senator from New York.” And he meant it. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Byrd, who chaired the Appropriations Committee, New Yorkers got the help they needed. And she will never forget his devotion and his friendship at that critical time. And after more than five decades of service, he has left an indelible imprint on the Senate, on West Virginia, and on our nation, and we will not see his like again.
Turning to Kyrgyzstan, the United States welcomes the peaceful orderly conduct of the constitutional referendum held yesterday in Kyrgyzstan and notes the positive assessment by the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which commended the provisional government for organizing a peaceful process that allowed for a high turnout. The United States commends the civic participation and peaceful conduct of ordinary citizens who voted without incident. The United States calls on the provisional government and all of the citizens of Kyrgyzstan to use this opportunity to advance the process of reconciliation and accountability to ensure future interethnic harmony and move Kyrgyzstan forward on a path to stability, security, democracy, and prosperity for all citizens of the republic. The United States, working with the international community and our partners, will provide all appropriate support and assistance to the people and Government of Kyrgyzstan in these efforts.
I would note that Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz is in Uzbekistan today and will be in Kyrgyzstan tomorrow. Today, he has met with Uzbek officials to discuss the humanitarian situation involving displaced persons from Kyrgyzstan. He will also meet with UN officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross. And tomorrow in Kyrgyzstan, he’ll meet with the provincial government officials and a representative of international agencies, also including the UNHCR, ICRC, and others involved in the humanitarian effort.
Speaking of elections, the United States congratulates the people of Guinea for holding their first openly contested elections yesterday. The extraordinary effort on the part of the Guinean people and its government to hold this election under significant time pressure and despite considerable logistical challenges is a testament to Guinea’s enthusiastic and inspiring embrace of democracy. Based on the preliminary assessments from local and international observers and Embassy Conakry’s observations, the elections went very well. There were few reports of violence, and millions of Guineans participated peacefully and patiently. We urge all interested parties to respect the outcome and work together.
I was asked on Friday regarding the meeting last week of the Kimberley Process. I can say that the United States was disappointed that consensus was not reached concerning the administrative decision on Zimbabwe at the meeting in Tel Aviv. We look for Zimbabwe to make further progress implementing the necessary steps to bring the Marange diamond fields into compliance with Kimberley Process minimum requirements. We strongly oppose any attempts to export Marange diamonds before consensus is reached.
We look forward to continuing to engage with all Kimberley Process members on this matter and welcome the chair’s efforts in this regard. It is important that Zimbabwe address the ongoing diamond smuggling and human rights violations in and around the Marange diamond fields.
I think coming up in about half an hour’s time there’ll be a briefing at the White House on the national space policy and then we will hold a background briefing here at 4 o’clock to discuss its long-term implications.
Again, I was asked on Friday about an upcoming trip – an upcoming visit here to Washington by South Korean officials, and I can report that Ambassador Wi Sung-lac, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, will be visiting Washington tomorrow for consultations on
North Korea. These meetings are part of our ongoing regular consultations with officials from the Republic of Korea. These consultations reflect the close cooperation between ourselves and the republic. Ambassador Wi is scheduled to meet Special Representative Steve Bosworth and Special Envoy Sung Kim.
Also last week I was asked about the status of our review of North Korea and the question of state sponsorship of terrorism. And this review process continues. It’s actually a never-ending process. We’re always evaluating information that is available to us in concert with the relevant statutes. But it is our judgment that the sinking of the Cheonan
is not an act of international terrorism and by itself would not trigger placing North Korea on the state sponsor of terrorism list. That said, we continue to evaluate information that is consistently coming into us regarding North Korean activities, and we will not hesitate to take action if we have information that North Korea has repeatedly provided support for acts of terrorism. So that is an ongoing process.
The White House announced on Friday that – its intent to nominate Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, currently in Ankara, to be the ambassador in Baghdad. A couple of you were asking over the weekend about Chris Hill. After 32 years as an assistant secretary, an ambassador, a peace envoy, he is looking forward to retirement.
And finally, we certainly congratulate Ghana on its victory over the weekend and look forward to the next round.QUESTION:
Can I ask you --MR. CROWLEY:
-- really quickly, logistically. Well, your – there’s a background briefing here at 4 about the Administration’s new space policy?MR. CROWLEY:
What does the State Department have to do with the Administration’s new space policy?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, one of the --QUESTION:
Because it’s not – it’s an exploration policy thing.MR. CROWLEY:
No, but obviously – well, I don’t want to prejudge the news. We have been very active in the development of the national space policy. It will involve significant international cooperation going forward. We were central to the – its evaluation and its development.QUESTION:
And one other thing just to --MR. CROWLEY:
-- follow up on that. I mean, the White House has announced that they’re doing a conference call with reporters to discuss the Administration’s new space policy. MR. CROWLEY:
That’s one and the same thing.QUESTION:
I’m sorry. But I thought you said there would be something here at 4 p.m.MR. CROWLEY:
This is 1:30MR. CROWLEY:
There will be a White House briefing at 1:30.QUESTION:
On the record. And there will be a background briefing here at 4 o’clock.QUESTION:
With the same people?MR. CROWLEY:
That I’m not sure.QUESTION:
And why is this necessary to do two briefings?MR. CROWLEY:
If you don’t want the background briefing –we will – (laughter) – no, I mean, the State Department has a role to play here. It’ll be an interagency briefing here at 4 o’clock.
I thought last week you said that Mitchell was going back to the region this week. Has that not happened yet?MR. CROWLEY:
I’ll take that question. I don’t know what his schedule is. He has not left yet.QUESTION:
P.J., can you tell us why it is – simply stated, why it is the Administration’s judgment that the sinking of the Cheonan
is (a) not an act of international terrorism and (b) – well, that’s the main question.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, quite simply, it was – in our view, it was a provocative action but one taken by the military or the state against the military of another state.QUESTION:
Is that --MR. CROWLEY:
That, in our view, does not constitute an act of international terrorism.QUESTION:
Does that constitute an act of war then? I mean, what is it if it’s not --MR. CROWLEY:
Well, it certainly is a violation of the existing armistice between North and South. And we are obviously seeking a meeting with North Korean officials to discuss that. I think there’s been some reporting that North Korea has, at least for the moment, declined to participate in that meeting. But this is a – it was a state-on-state action and by itself does not constitute an act of international terrorism. That said, we obviously have plenty of concerns about activity of North Korea in terms of its well-established export of weapons and dangerous technology and know-how and we will continue to watch North Korea very carefully and will not hesitate to take action if we think that there are actions that North Korea has taken which do, in fact, demonstrate a consistent support for international terrorism.QUESTION:
At what level are you seeking that meeting with the North Koreans?MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, this is – there’s an established process if we have – if we want to raise questions that – about violations of the armistice. We believe that the Cheonan
was, in fact, a violation of the armistice. We’ve sought meetings at various levels and thus far they have not been set up.QUESTION:
You’d have it in New York, would you say? Or is there a different process?MR. CROWLEY:
No. Oh, I’m sorry. In the DMZ.QUESTION:
It’s the DMZ --MR. CROWLEY:
There’s an established protocol.QUESTION:
Last week’s NSC meeting – are you satisfied by the clarification given by
China to you on its agreement of selling two nuclear power plants to Pakistan?MR. CROWLEY:
Are you talking about Nuclear Suppliers Group?QUESTION:
We did raise the issue during last week’s Nuclear Suppliers Group. And we continue to seek information from China regarding its future plans.QUESTION:
So you have not – they haven’t given you full details yet? Do you need more information from them before you take a decision on it?MR. CROWLEY:
We – as a first step, we’re looking for more information from China as to what it is potentially proposing. We have a view that this initiative, as it goes forward, would need the agreement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
I’ve got a couple of questions on
Secretary Clinton’s visit to South Caucasus and I’m particularly interest in Baku. I wonder if you have, first of all, any more details on who exactly she’s meeting in Baku and what’s the agenda.MR. CROWLEY:
Actually, we’re going to have a full on-the-record briefing tomorrow to go through the trip and we’ll go through those kinds of details tomorrow.QUESTION:
But she will – she’ll be meeting with high-level officials in each of the stops that she has.QUESTION:
And it’s going to be here at the State Department?MR. CROWLEY:
Yes, at this podium.QUESTION:
Going back to North Korea – South. On the ground, it’s always said that the final agreement about ending the war was never signed. So do you have anything to say on that?MR. CROWLEY:
That’s true. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
Yeah. I was in South Korea and North Korea and this is – was exactly what – they said the war is still on. So how do you define that?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, and that is – that’s a fact that technically, the two countries remain at a state of conflict. We obviously would like to see that resolved. But clearly, there are things that North Korea will have to do if it wants to have better relations with its neighbors and, in particular, South Korea.QUESTION:
Now, is South Korea doing anything to proceed with this?MR. CROWLEY:
Is South Korea doing anything --QUESTION:
To proceed with this signing of the end of the war?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I mean, that’s a matter of – I mean, that’s a matter, I think, for the United Nations would oversee that process. But at this point, what we’re doing in light of the North Korean provocations, we’re continuing to work with South Korea to strengthen our defense cooperation. You heard over the weekend decisions made by the presidents of the United States and South Korea regarding operational control of forces on the peninsula. We obviously would like to see North Korea cease its provocative action and construct better relations with its neighbors, take affirmative steps towards denuclearization of the peninsula. Those would be the kinds of things that we think would create the proper environment to resolve the armistice and establish peace and stability on the peninsula. But that is, at this point, up to North Korea.
China and Taiwan is going to sign ECFA, Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement soon. Do you have any comment on that?MR. CROWLEY:
Interior – home ministers of
India and Pakistan met over the weekend. There was some discussion on sharing of intelligence, terrorism-related incident, information on – between the intelligence agencies of two countries. Do you have any comment on the (inaudible) -- MR. CROWLEY:
Well, Lalit, as we’ve said many times, we encourage this kind of pragmatic and direct dialogue. We think there can be benefits to both countries. As to the nature of cooperation and sharing of information, that is obviously decisions to be made by the respective governments.QUESTION:
Do you say U.S. can also help by sharing information with both the countries together?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, and -- QUESTION:
Trilateral -- MR. CROWLEY:
Security cooperation is already a dimension of our relationship with each of those countries. QUESTION:
Has Ambassador Hill already – has he already departed the Embassy in Baghdad?MR. CROWLEY:
No, no, no, no. In fact, I’m glad you mentioned that. He was slated to stay for a year. He’s extended his time there through the existing transition. I believe he will remain in place until Ambassador Jeffrey is confirmed by the Senate. QUESTION:
Which is likely when? I mean, the Senate -- MR. CROWLEY:
Well, the intent to nominate was made on Friday. Normally, it takes a few days for the actual paperwork to go forward. And we would certainly – given the importance of the transition, we would like to see Ambassador Jeffrey in place as rapidly as possible. We’re already in conversation with -- QUESTION:
We are already in conversation with the Senate about that schedule. QUESTION:
On a related issue, ambassadors, is the State Department lobbying Congress to speed up the deployment of Ambassador Robert Ford to Damascus?MR. CROWLEY:
We remain in discussion with the Senate about the confirmation of Robert Ford and it is important to us. But obviously, he’s one of a number of ambassadors that are currently still in the confirmation process. QUESTION:
Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)