1:28 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Several things to talk about before taking your questions.
The Secretary will be traveling to Asia next week. You had Richard Holbrooke here yesterday talking about the South Asia portion of her travel. She will also be traveling to the Republic of Korea and Vietnam. I think the Pentagon, in their briefing that just started a few minutes before ours, had a little bit to say about Secretary Gates meeting up with Secretary Clinton in Seoul for a 2+2 meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. The Secretary and Secretary Gates will also meet with President Lee Myung-bak while he’s there as well as dealing with their counterparts Foreign Minister Yu and Minister of National Defense Kim.
The Secretary will also be in Hanoi where she’ll have senior – meetings with senior Vietnamese leaders to discuss key bilateral and regional issues, as well as attending the ASEAN post-ministerial conference, and then she will also join foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam for their second meeting to discuss the Lower Mekong Initiative. We’ll have Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell down here tomorrow, late morning, to give you kind of a formal trip briefing.
But with regard to the 2+2 meeting, we expect that Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton, together with Defense Minister Kim and Foreign Minister Yu, will discuss, and likely approve, a series – proposed series of U.S. and Korea combined military exercises, including new naval and air exercises in both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.
As you saw earlier this morning, the Secretary met today with Slovenian Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar. She expressed her appreciation for Slovenian partnership in addressing a range of global issues and challenges, ranging from transatlantic security to a more prosperous future for the people of Afghanistan. She expressed her appreciation for Slovenia’s ongoing cooperation with the mission in Afghanistan. Obviously, they will both see each other again next week at the Kabul conference. But she also commended the foreign minister for its humanitarian assistance, particularly with respect to Gaza, and its constructive efforts regarding the Western Balkans.
Today, USAID Administrator Raj Shah is hosting a conference on transforming development through science, technology, and innovation. USAID has identified science and technology as one of its four key priorities. And USAID has gathered many of the world’s leading scientists and development thinkers, along with leaders of key government science agencies, to help map out a bold, new science, technology, and innovation strategy for USAID. In this part of this program, Secretary Clinton will provide remarks to the conference later on today, as will the President’s Science and Technology Advisor Dr. John Holdren.
On senior leader travel, Under Secretary Bill Burns will travel beginning today to Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In Bangkok, he will meet with senior government officials, including Foreign Minister Kisit Piromya, with whom he’ll hold a Strategic Dialogue session to advance U.S.-Thai cooperation on bilateral, regional, and global issues. He will also give a speech on the U.S.-Thai alliance and cooperation while there. In Phnom Penh, he will commemorate the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Cambodia bilateral relations. He will also meet with senior Cambodian officials to discuss our partnership, including the Lower Mekong Initiative.
In Jakarta, he will discuss our continued work with Indonesia to build the comprehensive partnership that we have with that country and intensify our cooperation on regional security challenges. And in the Philippines, he will consult with officials of the new Aquino administration and discuss ways to advance our cooperation with an important ally.
Staying in that region, this evening, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell and Ambassador of Vietnam Le Cong Phung will co-host a reception in celebration of 15 years of U.S.-Vietnamese diplomatic relations. Secretary Campbell and Ambassador Phung will provide remarks and they will be joined by former President Clinton, Senator John Kerry, Senator John McCain, and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega.
Coming up on the 16th, on Friday, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro will discuss the state of U.S.-Israeli security relationship in a speech at the Brookings administration – I’m sorry, Brookings Institution – at 10:30 at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
Likewise, today, here at the Department, Under Secretary for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Judith McHale will welcome South Asian participants of the Seeds of Peace program. This consists of youth leaders from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, who have just completed a three-week conflict resolution program in Maine.
And finally, I know many of you have been asking this morning about the status of the Iroquois lacrosse team. We have had contacts with the – with team representatives today. And to facilitate their participation in the competition in the United Kingdom, they have been granted a one-time-only waiver of the U.S. passport requirement for travel to and from the United States. Now, this doesn’t mean that all the details of their prospective travel are finished. We have taken care of those team members and travel party who are eligible for a U.S. passport. Some members of the team and traveling party would have to obtain the same kind of arrangement from Canada. And the team, as a whole, still has to procure visas from the United Kingdom in order to travel there for their contest tomorrow.
QUESTION: So on that, does that mean that you have provided them with the letter that the Brits were looking for?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have provided them with a travel document. It is not a U.S. passport. That remains the preferred travel document for those who are eligible for a U.S. passport. But we have – we are in the process of providing them with a travel document. But it will still be up to the United Kingdom to evaluate whether, based on that travel document, they will be granted a visa.
QUESTION: I thought that it was – that this case was outside the criteria for this kind of special dispensation.
MR. CROWLEY: We went back over the authorities that the Secretary of State has. We found that there was flexibility there to grant this kind of a one-time waiver given the unique circumstances of this particular trip, and the fact that we all want to see the team participate in what, I think, has been described as the Olympics of lacrosse.
But just to reinforce the point: This is a one-time waiver. And given the security concerns that we do have on the global travel system, obviously, the preferred travel document for the future is – for those who qualify – the United States passport.
QUESTION: So the – so in other words, the underlying dilemma here still exists? This is --
MR. CROWLEY: The underlying dilemma being?
QUESTION: Well, the underlying dilemma being that you are going to require them from now on, after this case, to travel on U.S. passports, correct? And they don’t want to do that.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, let’s step back. If you are a person traveling for non-business purposes and you have a U.S. passport, you wouldn't even require a visa from the United Kingdom. So for groups who qualify or individuals who qualify for a U.S. passport, given the emphasis that’s now placed on the security of travel documents, the best option for this group all along has been to procure a U.S. passport. They have chosen not to do so. We have looked at our authorities and found that given these exigent circumstances, we have granted a one-time waiver. But in the future, yes, they will need a U.S. passport to avoid a similar situation in the next time they travel for any kind of international competition.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I just get a couple things very briefly on the same subject? One, have you been in touch with the Canadians to tell them that this has been resolved and that would encourage them to do --
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: -- to make a similar resolution?
MR. CROWLEY: -- it’s not for us to encourage another country to do anything.
QUESTION: Well, have you told the Canadians?
MR. CROWLEY: We have been in touch with the Canadians and we have told them what we have decided to do.
QUESTION: Okay. Second, can you address the Secretary’s personal involvement in this case?
MR. CROWLEY: It was the Secretary that made the decision to grant the one-time waiver.
QUESTION: You encourage other countries to do things all the time. You encourage the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons, you encourage Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. I mean, you encourage other countries to do things a hundred times a day, right?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: So, I mean, why not encourage the Canadians?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – I mean, Canada is a sovereign country and --
QUESTION: So are North Korea and Israel.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean – hang on a second. We’re talking about people who likewise qualify to procure a Canadian passport. So we have advised them what we have chosen to do. All I’m trying to say is that it is not within our power to provide travel documents to all members of the team since there are some who do not qualify for a U.S. passport. For those that we can take care of, we have taken care of.
QUESTION: Can I ask just one follow-up?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Why did you decide to grant the waiver? What changed your minds about this? And was the decision solely attributable to Matt’s questions, or were there other factors at play here?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you. I’ll take credit.
QUESTION: What changed your mind, ultimately?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I mean, we – ultimately, we want to see the team able to participate in what is a very significant event for them. We actually have not changed our view. It has been our view all along that members of this team, for the most part, qualify to hold U.S. passports and that in today’s day and age would, in fact, be the right decision for them to make. And we have been offering for several days to facilitate procuring that passport. They have chosen not to do so. There’s been, obviously, a great deal of not only media coverage about this, but we have been in touch with political figures who represent New York and other states, and we decided based on – and – but – we decided based on, first of all, a thorough review of the authorities that we have that there was sufficient flexibility to make this one-time exception.
QUESTION: Can I just – one last one on this for me. And that is, when did you become aware – when did the Department become aware of this problem? And the reason I ask is I’m just wondering how this became the crisis that it did become at the last minute, because --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I – first of all, I wouldn't characterize it as a crisis at all. I think we were aware last week of the issue. And we have reviewed it each day over the past, say, week, and each day we have reemphasized that they do qualify to receive and could apply for a U.S. passport. That remains our position. That ultimately, in our view, is what this team and others in a similar circumstance need to do.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding, though, that they were acting – that the Iroquois were acting in good faith when they – not realizing that these – that their own passports did not meet the – they didn’t realize that their passports did not meet the new requirements?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not here to speak on behalf of the Iroquois or others in a similar circumstance. This is not the first time that they have run into difficulties traveling using their confederation passport.
QUESTION: It is the first time in the U.S., though.
MR. CROWLEY: It is not the first time that they’ve had a problem.
QUESTION: No, the problem has – before has been with Canada, though, right?
MR. CROWLEY: No, more than --
QUESTION: There have been – can you be more specific as to when this was a problem before --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I don’t want to speak for them --
QUESTION: -- with the U.S. --
MR. CROWLEY: -- but I can tell you that we are aware of other circumstances in previous years --
QUESTION: With the same --
MR. CROWLEY: -- where they’ve had their travel interrupted outside the United States because of a question of recognition of that travel document.
QUESTION: Right. But that’s a little bit different than not being allowed – potentially not being allowed back into the U.S. So --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, all right. I --
QUESTION: And the other thing is --
MR. CROWLEY: I speak for the Department of State.
MR. CROWLEY: The question as to when they have returned from overseas travel and what they have presented to border agents and the decisions that those border agents have made, that is a question to ask the Department of Homeland Security.
QUESTION: Okay. And are you aware of other tribes having similar problems?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m – define – I don’t mean to be coy here. Define “problems.”
QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you aware of other sovereign tribal nations that issue their own passports who have had the same or similar --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any other circumstances, but it would not surprise me if these difficult – these difficulties have been repeated in other instances, I’m sure.
QUESTION: P.J., does the State Department consider those tribal passports legal for international travel?
MR. CROWLEY: Be more specific, Jill. I’m --
QUESTION: Well, the tribe is issuing its own passport.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the State Department consider that a legal document that could be used for international travel?
MR. CROWLEY: If the question – let me rephrase the question slightly. I mean, legal is a – that could be very – legal in terms of their ability to issue that kind of a document. If the question is do we consider that – this to be an international passport of the same caliber as the U.S. passport, the answer would be no. And in fact, that is precisely the point. It is primarily the fact that other countries, and including the United States, that is a not a document – travel document that is on par with the U.S. passport.
QUESTION: Just two follow-up questions, just one follow-up on Jill’s question. Given that you don’t consider it a valid travel document on par with a U.S. passport --
MR. CROWLEY: I --
QUESTION: Whatever you said.
MR. CROWLEY: It --
QUESTION: Given what you’ve said, would – how should this be handled in the future? Are you working with them to get them all U.S. passports? And how’s this going to be handled now? Is there a process that --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have stated very clearly that we would encourage them to apply for a U.S. passport. But ultimately, you have to apply. That decision is up to them.
QUESTION: So it’s --
MR. CROWLEY: All we’re saying is that there have been issues that have arisen around the world about the use of this travel document. The best way to open doors around the world is to obtain a U.S. passport.
QUESTION: I understand that, but I --
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Reuters may or may not agree with that statement. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I just was curious whether there’s now any sort of dialogue with the Iroquois nation about how these will be handled in the future, whether or not – you said this is --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, in our discussion --
QUESTION: -- a one-time waiver. I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: In our discussion with them today, we have made clear that we are making a one-time-only exception, and that if presented with this circumstance in the future, the result will be different.
QUESTION: And then my other follow-up was on Matt’s question. In some of the reporting about – it said that Secretary Clinton has taken some personal interest in this and you said that she signed the waiver, but –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I didn’t say that.
QUESTION: Can you give us –
MR. CROWLEY: I said she approved –
QUESTION: Can you give us any sort of sense of personal –
MR. CROWLEY: She approved the exception to policy.
QUESTION: -- involvement beyond approving it?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Can you give us any sort of sense of her personal involvement beyond just signing the approval?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, when she was first informed of the issue earlier this week, she did take a personal interest in it. She is very familiar with these tribes. She represented some of them as a senator from New York. And I think she feels the same way that many Americans feel, which is we want to see a team, which is by every indication, one of the leading lacrosse teams in the world, have the opportunity to participate in the Olympics of lacrosse. It is unfortunate that the choices made up to this point left us in this kind of last-minute, 11th-hour situation. We have taken a step to do everything that we can to resolve this, to allow the team to travel, to allow the team to participate, while making clear that in the future the team will have to make a different choice.
QUESTION: And what exactly is the travel document you’ve given them?
MR. CROWLEY: We have – we are in the process of giving to the team members and delegation members – those who qualify to receive a U.S. passport – we will issue letters that, in essence, provide the assurances that if they travel to the United Kingdom, they will be readmitted to the United States.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Congresswoman Slaughter’s office says that the Secretary talked to her this morning about this. Are you aware of any – of that call or of any other calls that the Secretary may have made? I know Governor Richardson was --
MR. CROWLEY: I am aware of that call.
QUESTION: -- interested in this.
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t rule out that there were other calls that she either made or received during the course of either today or yesterday.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Mark Hosenball from Newsweek. I had some questions for you. Do you have any comment or view on allegations recently made by the Democratic Voice of Burma and other human rights activists based on information from defectors that Burma is pursuing a secret nuclear program?
MR. CROWLEY: All I will say on this topic is that we have longstanding concerns about the nature of the relationship between Burma and North Korea and we have consistently reinforced in our conversations with Burmese authorities the importance of meeting all of their international obligations, including those in the area of nonproliferation. I’m not going to get into intelligence matters about what we know or what we think. This is an area that we are watching very carefully. We have concerns about the nature of that relationship. It is something that we watch very carefully. It’s something that we continue to talk to the Burmese Government about.
QUESTION: I have a couple follow-ups here. Senator Jim Webb says that he can’t get a full briefing from the Administration on the Burma nuclear allegations. Why is that? It was well-publicized that the senator recently cancelled a trip to Burma on the basis of the Democratic Voice of Burma’s information which was sponsored, backed up, promoted by the National Endowment for Democracy and was based on unclassified sources. Why isn’t the senator getting the most up-to-date analysis from the United States Government on this? Webb says that he asked the State Department about this in writing, but got no reply.
MR. CROWLEY: I will check to see if we have a formal request from Senator Webb. We have talked to Senator Webb on an ongoing and frequent basis, given his interest in Burma, given his recent travel to the region, and in fact, I can recall a previous trip, I think, last year where he visited Burma himself. We talk to Senator Webb all the time. We appreciate his interest in Burma. If he has a particular request that he wants to make of us beyond – and I will check to see if he’s already made that request, we will certainly be responsive.
QUESTION: Now, the National Endowment for Democracy has been very actively involved in supporting the Democratic Voice of Burma and promoting its allegations about a secret Burmese nuclear program. Has the Administration, in any way, directed or approved the Endowment’s promotion of these allegations? And what control or influence, if any, does the State Department or other elements of the Executive Branch have over the activities of the National Endowment for Democracy and its related organizations?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll take a question. I’m not equipped to say what kind of democratic programs we support with respect to Burma. I will take that question.
QUESTION: Okay, and one final thing, earlier this year, Mrs. Clinton criticized the growing relationship between the governments of Burma and North Korea. What’s the U.S. Government’s view of the nature of that relationship? Does the U.S. Government have any validated evidence that there’s a nuclear element to that relationship?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ve already answered that question.
QUESTION: On Burma itself, Secretary – sorry, Bill Burns travel to Thailand – does he have any plans to meet the Burmese leader in exile living in the country in Thailand? They have a huge Burmese refugees living there?
MR. CROWLEY: Burma is a member of ASEAN. I can’t say whether there will be a meeting. Let’s wait for the trip and we’ll see what happens.
QUESTION: And Secretary –
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, all right – I mean, that also would a kind of question to ask Kurt tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the trip – on Burns’ trip for second?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: In Indonesia and Cambodia specifically, are you aware of any human rights issues that will come up particularly in Cambodia, this tank unit that’s been accused of abuses in the past, which is going to be involved in a U.S.-funded military exercise?
MR. CROWLEY: I am – well, I am confident that in both the case of Indonesia and Cambodia among the bilateral issues that we will talk about will be human rights issues.
QUESTION: Do you expect the Secretary to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang during this trip?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, probably a very good question to ask Kurt tomorrow. I just haven’t seen a full trip schedule at this point.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Shahram Amiri has said before he left the U.S. that he was kidnapped in Saudi Arabia and brought to the United States and that he will tell the full story when he’s back to Iran tomorrow. Do you have anything on this?
MR. CROWLEY: I will simply repeat what I have said on more than one occasion. We did not kidnap him. He came to the United States of his free will. And as of last night, he left the United States of his free will.
QUESTION: When you – but yesterday, you said that you were assisting him in getting out of the country? Can you be a little bit more specific now that he’s gone about what your assistance entailed?
MR. CROWLEY: I was not suggesting it was significant. He was in need of assistance to be able to leave, and to the extent that we could, we helped him do that.
QUESTION: Can you explain what that was? I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: -- did you fly him to D.C.? Did --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we did, no.
QUESTION: -- you pay for his cab to the embassy?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we did.
QUESTION: Did you talk to the Qataris to get him a visa or something?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say. I don’t know.
QUESTION: P.J., what exactly was he doing here for – what, 13 months or so, an extended period?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Michele, I’ll just forecast that he perhaps will explain what he was up to in the past 13 months.
QUESTION: But what does the State Department think he was up to?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: What does the State Department – how you define this time that he spent here?
MR. CROWLEY: He was here as a private citizen.
QUESTION: On a tourist visa?
MR. CROWLEY: Huh?
QUESTION: On a tourist visa?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know what kind of travel document he had.
QUESTION: Well, P.J., if he was here as a --
QUESTION: Could you take that question?
MR. CROWLEY: All right, first of all, I mean, I understand the question. It’s a valid question. If we grant people visas, that is confidential. So I just don’t – I don’t know what kind of a travel document he had when he arrived here. He was here as a private citizen. I can’t speak to you as to where he was. Some suggested in one of the videos he was in Tucson. That may be true. Don’t know. Some coverage in the media today that he was pursuing some sort of academic program in Arizona. I don’t know.
He was here as a private citizen. And normally, when people are here, it’s not the responsibility of the Department of State to follow them as they go through their private pursuits.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Can you, however, take the question as to what kind of document he had when he came here, what kind of visa?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that we’ll be able to answer that question.
QUESTION: P.J., if he was --
QUESTION: Well, why would that be?
QUESTION: Yesterday --
MR. CROWLEY: We don’t – we normally don’t go around saying that we’ve issued so-and-so a visa, we’ve issued so-and-so – I do recognize that today, we have said that we’ve issued a travel document to a lacrosse team. But he was here in a private capacity. I do not know who helped him get here, if anyone did. He was here. He was here of his own volition and he left of his own volition. If he wants to talk about this, he can.
QUESTION: P.J., yesterday, you said that the U.S. Government had been in contact with him during his stay in the United States. Why, as you’ve repeated here numerous times, that if he was a private citizen, why was the government – why did the government have any contact with this guy at all?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to talk any more about Mr. Amiri. He has left the United States. If he wants to talk about his experiences here, that’s up to him.
QUESTION: But – so you can’t explain why the U.S. Government --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m --
QUESTION: -- would be involved in – would be in contact with this private citizen?
MR. CROWLEY: I have given you everything I can give you.
QUESTION: But you can tell us that he entered the country legally and stayed here legally without the knowledge of law enforcement agencies, without anyone --
MR. CROWLEY: He was here legally and he was here of his own volition. And he has departed the United States. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of the story.
QUESTION: Is there (inaudible) --
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that others may have a different view.
QUESTION: P.J., is there likely to be any kind of embarrassing ramifications to the Saudis --
MR. CROWLEY: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Is there likely to be any embarrassing ramifications for the Saudis (inaudible) to the Americans today on the Israeli (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Embarrassing – all right, slow down. Embarrassing --
QUESTION: Is there likely to be any kind of embarrassing information that he may divulge that could embarrass Saudi Arabia or the United States? What are you --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, he has decided to return to Iran. That was his decision to make. Now, what happens when he gets there? Who knows? I mean, while he was here in the United States, as you inquired, periodically, he made a number of videos. Some of those videos were contradictory. I have no idea who he was communicating with and – or to or for what reason.
So I think that probably whatever he said, because he had conflicting information and perspective on whether he was here of his own volition or not, from the United States standpoint, I could tell you he was here of his own volition, nobody coerced him to come here, and no one coerced him to leave. But once he gets back to Iran, I suspect that he’ll have a variety of things to say. And my advice would be take what he says with a grain of salt.
QUESTION: Do you expect the Iranians will release the Americans from the prison?
MR. CROWLEY: We know what Iran should do. The hikers have been held now for almost a year without charge. They were exactly as we described them. They were hikers in Iraq who wandered close to or across an unmarked border. We believe they should be released on humanitarian grounds and we would continue to encourage Iran to do that as soon as possible.
QUESTION: The Swiss ambassador to Tehran was in Washington two weeks ago, I think. Have you discussed Amiri’s issue with him?
MR. CROWLEY: As we indicated, I think, in a response to a question taken, we have had conversations, or at least one conversation with the Swiss to alert them that Mr. Amiri would be returning to Iran.
QUESTION: Can you explain that phone call that Jeff Feltman made to the Swiss ambassador? Why, if this guy’s a private citizen, would that kind of call be made? Irani – private Iranian citizens who are in this country leave this country all the time and you don’t get in touch with the Swiss about it.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think in this particular case, we had a strong suspicion that there would be media coverage of this development and that we wanted to make sure that the Swiss ambassador, who is our protecting power in Iran, was aware of something that was likely to gain international attention.
QUESTION: I see. So it’s our fault? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: There was some suggestion --
MR. CROWLEY: No, you were doing your great work that you do every day.
QUESTION: There was some suggestion a few months ago that the Iranians via the Swiss had passed on a list of 10 or 11 Iranian citizens that they believed were being held inappropriately by the Americans or at the Americans’ request in other countries. Number one, have you ever seen that list? And number two, has this come up again – the suggestion of some trade for the three hikers?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, actually, probably the best list of Iranians in U.S. custody as a result of transparent legal processes was put together by one of your colleagues. To the extent that the Iranians have provided us questions about particular citizens, we have answered those questions. If – as we have indicated many times, if there is an Iranian citizen in U.S. custody and Iran wants to arrange a consular visit, we are more than happy to make those arrangements. I am not aware, with one exception, that they have taken advantage of our offer.
QUESTION: Can you – yesterday, you spoke a tiny bit about this letter that the senatorial quartet from New York and New Jersey has sent to the --
MR. CROWLEY: A new term.
QUESTION: Yes. Calling it the quartet, of course, dooms is to failure. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: I would prefer to say a lengthy process. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Has – the Secretary spoke this morning and said --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, she did.
QUESTION: -- she had received the letter and they were looking into it.
MR. CROWLEY: I believe we received more than one.
QUESTION: Received – sorry?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we’ve actually received more than one.
QUESTION: More than one letter?
MR. CROWLEY: Letter.
QUESTION: From the four – from the quartet of senators? That would be the one today, too, or the one before?
MR. CROWLEY: Is there a new one today?
QUESTION: There’s another one today. It’s not from --
MR. CROWLEY: Usually, I get my information from you.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, the four of them have latched on to this issue with vigor, it looks like, and they’re now – anyway, is the State Department willing to consider an investigation into whether BP was – had any kind of improper role in the Megrahi release?
MR. CROWLEY: We have – as the Secretary said, we have received a letter. It has made some recommendations to us. We are evaluating those recommendations and we’ll respond to the senators.
QUESTION: But in general, is it – is this something that you would be willing to look into?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to make any predictions as to what our response to the senators will be.
QUESTION: Well, you say you’re evaluating the recommendations. On what basis are you evaluating them – whether it’s --
MR. CROWLEY: They made some suggestions of what we should do, and we will --
QUESTION: Are you looking at whether it’s within your capacity to do what they suggest or whether it’s advisable to do what they suggest or whether it’s – what (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there are some practical questions of exactly what they would be asking us to do and what would be our ability to inquire as to a conversation that might – alleged to have taken place between a private company, a government, and another devolved government. So we have the letter. We are looking at the letter. We understand what they’ve asked us to do. And we will respond to the letter.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: P.J., on Cuba – and you may want to take this – but is Cuba the only country that Americans have a travel ban for? I mean, it’s called a travel ban – the travel ban. Is that the only country that Americans are restricted by – (laughter) – I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was that funny.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) No, no. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I thought you said Mark was asleep. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: There’s a counseling session that’s going to follow here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) awake enough.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Would you be able to check that, if it is the only country that Americans are banned from traveling to?
MR. CROWLEY: I will take that question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Also on Cuba, at least one of the --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that we’re recommending travel to North Korea these days either. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But technically, you could go, right? You could go to the Arirang Games?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there are some very particular legal issues regarding – it’s not that you are prohibited from traveling to Cuba. I believe, off the top of my head, you’re prohibited from actually spending money in Cuba. So that probably is a unique set of circumstances.
QUESTION: Also on Cuba?
QUESTION: On Iraq?
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Can we stay on Cuba?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: At least one of these five Cubans who – political – freed political prisoners who have gone to Spain has said that he would like to – or she – I’m not sure if it’s a he or she – wants to come to the States. Is this something that is possible? Can anyone or any of these people who have been freed come to the States? Are they eligible to get – to come here?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, anyone can apply to travel to the United States and we will evaluate any request that we receive, as we would any foreign citizen who wishes to come to the United States.
QUESTION: But the special rules that apply to Cubans --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I understand the question. I mean, I’m not aware that – obviously, as a first step, we’ve had – a handful of political prisoners have arrived in Spain. We expect another couple will come out tonight and we hope that there will be others over the next few days. We’re delighted that they are in Spain. As to whatever future travel plans they have, we’ll address those as we go along.
QUESTION: Well, the reason that it comes up is because, apparently, in 2008, four Cubans who were – who went to – who left Cuba and went to Spain under similar circumstances were not allowed to come to the U.S.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’m – obviously, anyone who wishes to come to the United States has to apply, and then we have legal criteria that we follow to make those determinations. So if anyone wishes to apply to come to the United States, we will evaluate it.
QUESTION: Senator Carl Levin yesterday called for declaring Pakistani Taliban and Haqqani Network as Foreign Terrorist Organization. What is holding the State Department from declaring them as FTO?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, nothing is holding us from taking any action. We are evaluating a number of entities in Pakistan. There’s a legal – there’s a process and legal criteria that has to be met. This is something that we’re looking into. And we’ll make a determination one way or the other when we’re finished.
QUESTION: Don’t you think the delay in this would help these organizations to have transfer of funds and even raise funds here in the U.S.?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, obviously, there is an impact on any group that is designed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. It has very definite financial and legal implications. It’s one of the reasons why there is a deliberate process involved, whether you’re talking about the Haqqani Network, whether you’re talking about the Pakistani Taliban or any group anywhere in the world. We take this responsibility seriously. We designate individuals and groups on an ongoing basis. We have evaluated these groups for quite some time. We evaluate not only in terms of what they’ve done, the threat they represent to the United States, and the prospective policy impact that this has. So if the question is, are we looking into the Haqqani Network, we are. Have we reached a determination yet? We have not.
QUESTION: But clearly, this Haqqani Network group sends a threat to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. I mean, I don’t think anyone would deny that. Is President Karzai and the Karzai administration’s associations with Haqqani Network one of the things that’s factoring into this not being declared a terrorist --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we are evaluating the Haqqani Network, but we have not reached any determination.
QUESTION: Do you know how long the State Department has been evaluating the Haqqani Network as a potential --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the Haqqani Network has been known to us for some time. This is not something that snuck up on us. So I mean, as I’ve described before, this is an ongoing process. We look at what’s happening on the ground. We look at intelligence that tells us what threat do they represent either to our allies or to the United States directly. This is not a static situation. Developments change over time. And it is some – but it is something that we are actively looking at.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a follow-up on the Afghanistan. I’m sorry if I missed it, if you commented on the friendly fire that – from Afghan side killing NATO (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: I have not. I don’t – I’ve seen the coverage, obviously, of this tragedy. It’s something that happens in conflict zones. I’m sure the military is working with the Afghan side. Anytime that we have these kinds of episodes, whether it’s – in either direction – and they have, tragically, happened over the course of our time in Afghanistan – we evaluate what we can do better to try to do everything that we can to avoid unintentional deaths and injuries on the battlefield.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Iraq?
QUESTION: Those were intentional, by the way.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I --
QUESTION: The guy went after them.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Could you tell us actual steps that the U.S. Government may be taking or could potentially take to help Iraq get from underneath Chapter 7? I mean, beyond the rhetoric and the (inaudible) and all that, what are the actual steps that the U.S. Government is taking to get Iraq from underneath Chapter 7?
MR. CROWLEY: This is something that the Secretary and the Iraqi foreign minister talked about at length during the course of their meeting yesterday. The United States is only one of a number of countries that – for which this is an issue. The foreign minister talked yesterday about the steps that Iraq has taken in terms of working on – to clarify responsibilities under various contracts, questions that still exist within the UN. It has undertaken a number of steps to improve its relationship with Kuwait. We are a part of that process. The Secretary pledged that we will continue to work with Iraq and within the Security Council to help Iraq emerge from its Chapter 7 status.
QUESTION: Same topic or a similar topic, going back to India-Pakistan. In a newspaper interview today, the Indian home secretary said that the Pakistani ISI planned and executed the Mumbai attacks. And he made these comments after the Indian interrogators had talked to David Headley. Based on our information from David Headley, is he correct?
MR. CROWLEY: The Indian officials met with Mr. Headley in the last few weeks. I do not know what they talked about.
QUESTION: But didn’t – no, my question was: Based on our information, given the fact that he was interrogated by American officials, is he correct?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I don’t think – I don’t see how I can comment from here. Anything I would say would either compromise intelligence information or an ongoing legal investigation.
QUESTION: On the Haqqani Network. So you said that you were working through objective criteria in deciding their designation as a terrorist organization. Are you involving Pakistan and Afghanistan or the leaders in specific aspects of that discussion?
And secondly, as I asked Mr. Holbrooke yesterday, do you have any concerns that such designations, if they do go through, will lead to a divide in terms of what – how the U.S. views future governments in Afghanistan?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s separate out two issues. As to whether we, the United States, designate any individual or any group as a foreign terrorist organization or as a foreign terrorist, that is something that we do, it’s a judgment that we make based on our laws. And that does not involve any other country.
As to whether we are in discussions with Pakistan and Afghanistan about insurgents on both sides of the border and how to best defeat them, yes, every day we talk to both countries about the terrorist threat that confronts all of us – as a threat to all of us and to security in the region. So that conversation we have on an ongoing basis. In terms of any step that we take, we have to evaluate not only legally whether we can document, because it does have financial and legal consequences and frequently, we could be subject to a lawsuit, so we would have to defend a decision that we’ve made in these designations. So you want to make sure that you have done your due diligence and you can actually defend a decision that is made.
We also make sure that any action that we take actually supports our broader strategy, and we understand the impact that that designation would have on the ground in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. So these are all things that we take into account when we evaluate steps like this.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Turkish foreign minister made a statement today, and he denied some reports claiming there is an agreement between U.S. and Turkey, that Turkey will leave the negotiation on Iran nuclear program.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. I didn’t hear the verb there. That?
QUESTION: He denied the reports claiming that Turkey will leave the negotiation with Iran on Iran nuclear – Iran’s nuclear program. Today, he made a statement after the phone call --
MR. CROWLEY: But again, that he would leave?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: After the phone conversation between him and Secretary Clinton. Because some reports claiming that Turkey will leave the negotiation with – after – with Iran on the nuclear – Iran’s nuclear program. And he said that Turkey will be involved in this process.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t see those as necessarily being mutually exclusive. In other words, Turkey and Iran are neighbors. One would expect that Turkey and Iran will continue to have diplomatic contacts. It is within their rights, and obviously, what happens in Iran has a profound and direct influence on Turkey.
What the Secretary said to the foreign minister in their call earlier this week was that at this stage, the primary focus should be on Iran engaging constructively the IAEA and the P-5+1. And we believe that there was a mutual understanding about the importance of getting Iran to engage the IAEA and the P-5+1 at this stage of the game.
QUESTION: A final one. Are you --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll get to you.
QUESTION: Are you worried about President Mubarak’s health situation?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t comment on President Mubarak’s health. That would be a health – that would be something for the Egyptian Government to comment on. We continue to value the contribution that President Mubarak has made to peace and security in the region. We always wish him good health, but as to his current status, I’ll defer to the Egyptian Government.
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the burqa ban that passed the French parliament yesterday?
MR. CROWLEY: I would only say that as I understand it, this is a first step in what may be a lengthy legislative and perhaps legal process. So all I – and beyond that, all I can say is from our standpoint here in the United States, we would take a different step to balance security and to respect religious freedom and the symbols that go along with religious freedom.
QUESTION: What would that step be?
MR. CROWLEY: We do not think that you should legislate what people can wear or not wear associated with their religious beliefs.
QUESTION: Prime Minister – the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies seems to continue to speak from the two sides of his mouth. You expressed hopes yesterday that what Senator Mitchell would find on the ground in his trip will be hopeful for a resumption of direct negotiations. Yet we see that beside the demolitions of houses by Israelis in Jerusalem and having the kids and babies and families staying out in the open, now we see Palestinians from behind the green line – those are the territories that – of the Palestinians that were exist in the territories before the creation of Israel in 1948. These – one of these towns is going to be razed from the ground by the Israeli policy that is asking the Palestinians to show proof of their ownership of these houses. These Palestinians were on the TVs all across the Arab world and on al-Jazeera showing their documents that they have since the 1930s of their ownerships of these houses in this town before the creation of Israel.
Now, this could go into the category of ethnic cleansing by Israel. How conducive this kind of policy is going to be for peace in the Middle East? How helpful to your attempts to get to the point where you can actually make circumstances viable for peace in the Middle East?
MR. CROWLEY: I think you captured the essence of the challenge that we face, which is why George Mitchell will leave tonight and be in the region tomorrow and will have meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials before the end of the week. As we said yesterday, the kinds of actions that we saw yesterday in the demolition of houses, we understand fully that this raises the emotions understandably so. It is exactly the kind of unilateral action that undermines trust. It is the very kind of action that poses a potential obstacle to direct negotiations, which we think is the only route to addressing the final status issues, whether it’s the status of Jerusalem, borders of a viable Palestinian state, security for the people of Israel, and resolution of refugees in these territories and throughout the region.
That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s why George is going back to the region this week. And as we continue to say, any steps that the Israelis, Palestinians, or other parties take that change the facts on the ground, we think, is unhelpful.
QUESTION: Also –
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)
DPB # 114
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