1:22 p.m. EDT MR. CROWLEY:
Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Many things to talk about before taking your questions.
As we speak, the Secretary is having dinner with Afghan’s president –
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai in preparation for the Kabul Conference tomorrow. Also attending is Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen. The conference is a follow-up to the January 28 London Conference and it’s a significant moment in the development of Afghanistan, the largest gathering of leaders in Afghanistan since the 1970s. This is an Afghan-led conference and the government has told us they will present their renewed commitments on a variety of issues with a great deal of discussion centering on the upcoming transition to Afghan responsibility, discuss their plan and also their peace and reconciliation – or, I’m sorry, peace and reintegration program.
Also, the United States congratulates Afghanistan and Pakistan on concluding the historic Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement yesterday in Islamabad after more than a year of diligent and determined engagement by both sides. This agreement is one of the most important, concrete achievements between the two neighbors in 45 years and represents the most significant bilateral economic treaty ever signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will undoubtedly bring great benefit to the people of both countries and is also a major milestone in promoting regional trade.
And we took note of the fact that as the Secretary left Pakistan for Afghanistan a couple of hours ago, a number of programs were announced today that demonstrate the significant United States investment in the future of Pakistan, including announcements regarding significant investments in health, water, agriculture, government-to-government partnerships, support for the private sector, energy, security, gender equality, and a wide range of programs to help those who have been displaced by the ongoing fighting in Pakistan.
In terms of travel, Deputy Secretary Steinberg is en route to Tokyo. He was, this weekend, in a number of countries: Kazakhstan to attend the OSCE Summit, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia. Assistant Secretary Bob Blake was with him for those stops. He spent the day in Osh today reviewing, again, the situation along the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. He will be traveling this week to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Special Envoy Mitchell, having met yesterday with President Mubarak, was in Abu Dhabi earlier today for meetings – or, I’m sorry, yesterday for meetings with Abdallah bin Zayid, the foreign minister of the UAE. He is en route to Paris, but has also met during the course of today with Qatari Prime Minister At Thani.
Scott Gration is in Khartoum where he’s been attending the Consultative Forum. Later tomorrow, he will be in Darfur reviewing the situation there and then will be joining the U.S. delegation at the U.S. – I’m sorry, at the AU Summit in Kampala.
Going back to George Mitchell for a second, he will be in Paris later today and will meet – or will consult with National Security Advisor Levitte, also Foreign Minister Kouchner. He’ll return to the United States tomorrow.
Ambassador Eric Goosby, the US Global AIDS Coordinator, is currently in Vienna leading a U.S. delegation to the International AIDS conference. Yesterday at the conference, the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS announced that the United States remains the largest donor nation in the world, accounting for more than half of the donor disbursements in 2009. While we are proud of that fact, the key measure of success is lives saved, not dollars spent. And this is why, under President Obama’s Global Health Initiative, the U.S. is working to save as many lives as possible by addressing the range of health needs people have in developing countries.
The United States is pleased that the UN Economic and Social Council decided to grant the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission special consultative status today at the United Nations. The purpose of the NGO committee is to give civil society a strong voice at the UN, and that includes the important contributions that gay and lesbian groups like the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission can make on issues like human rights and combating discrimination in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The United States will continue to work diligently with the UN Economic and Social Council and the UN – and the NGO committee to ensure qualified civil society organizations are given voice at the United Nations.
I think a few minutes ago at the Pentagon, it announced that two detainees have been returned over the weekend; one to Algeria and one was resettled in Cape Verde. We are grateful to the countries of Algeria and Cape Verde for their willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. One of those cases involving the return of the Algerian sparked some legal review in the United States. Previously, a total of 10 detainees from Guantanamo were successfully repatriated to Algeria. None, in our view, has appeared to be mistreated. And as of today, 178 detainees remain at Guantanamo.
The Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee, is hosting a Russian delegation of boys and girls – 19 boys and girls, ages 13 to 16, four coaches and one team leader for a swimming program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The program is held under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission’s Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group under the leadership of Judith McHale.
And finally, before I take any questions, we will release the text of letters this afternoon. The Secretary has responded to Senators Schumer and Lautenberg, Menendez, and Gillibrand regarding the questions regarding the Pan Am 103 bomber, Abdel Basset al-
Megrahi. In the letter, you’ll see in the text she reiterates that we strongly opposed his release. To quote her, “That al-Megrahi is living out his remaining days outside of Scottish custody is an affront to the victims’ families, the memories of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, and to all of those who worked tirelessly to ensure justice was served.”
While any decision to review or reconsider the decision to release al-Megrahi remains a matter for the Scottish authorities, we have maintained and will continue to maintain in our exchanges with Scottish officials our unshakeable conviction that al-Megrahi should not be a free man. And to that end, we are encouraging the Scottish and British authorities to review again the underlying facts and circumstances leading to the release of al-Megrahi and to consider any new information that has come to light since his release. In the letter, she asks – she mentions that she has asked British Foreign Secretary Hague to review and address the issues raised in the senators’ letters and respond directly to the Congress, which he has done this weekend.QUESTION:
That’s not like the same – the letter that Menendez released yesterday?MR. CROWLEY:
Could be, but we will release the text of it today.
Yeah, the al-Megrahi thing.MR. CROWLEY:
Okay. Now, beyond this letter, what steps could be taken, actually, to bring him back to justice or to have some sort of recourse in this case?MR. CROWLEY:
I’m quite honestly not sure that the United States has recourse. This is a matter for Scottish authorities. And I think over the weekend, Scottish authorities have indicated they’ll be happy to cooperate with the Senate in its upcoming hearing and its ongoing review of the matter. We have not doubted for a second that this was within the purview of Scottish authorities to make this decision. We just happen to believe it was a wrong decision. But at this point, I’m not sure that there is a basis to reverse the decision.QUESTION:
But there was – if they were to look at the case again and look at any new evidence that may have emerged since his release and so on, don’t you think –MR. CROWLEY:
And we think that should be done. Absolutely, it should be done. But again, you are asking, is it likely that this action is going to be reversed; it is unlikely.
P.J., is the U.S. going to consider any sanctions against Libya if a review determines that Megrahi should not have been released and Libya does not return him to Scottish prison?MR. CROWLEY:
I’m not –QUESTION:
Well, what pressure could you bring to bear?MR. CROWLEY:
Again, the – I mean, among the questions that were raised was whether there was inappropriate lobbying by BP. And as I think Foreign Secretary Hague said in his letter to the Secretary over the weekend, a copy of which was provided to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he has found no basis to the suggestion that BP, in any way, influenced the Megrahi decision. Whatever lobbying that they did was within the context of the prisoner transfer agreement.
Now, the Scottish authorities based their analysis of Megrahi’s medical condition on multiple medical opinions. They made this decision based on humanitarian grounds and the decision to review. And, of course, to – if they wanted to appeal to Libyan authorities, it would be theirs to make. So I’m not sure that there is a sanctionable offense here, if that makes sense. In other words, we regret deeply that Scottish authorities made this decision. We said so before they made it, we said so after they made it, but we respect the fact that this was their decision to make.QUESTION:
On this issue, does State encourage a meeting between the senators and anybody in the British Government? They’ve asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Cameron.MR. CROWLEY:
Again, I think in his letter to the Secretary, which included a copy to the Senate, the British Ambassador here to the United States is available and will be offering his assistance at whatever kind of steps – further steps the senators would like the British Government to make.QUESTION:
Just for the – very briefly, specifically, the senators had asked to meet with the British prime minister. Is the State Department –MR. CROWLEY:
Again, that’s – QUESTION:
– involved in that at all?MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, just as when the Secretary travels, she meets with a range of officials within government, both within the executive branch, within parliamentary branch. It’s up to the prime minister if he chooses to meet with the senators. We certainly would encourage such a meeting, but as to what the prime minister’s schedule is, I’ll defer to the British Government.QUESTION:
I think he was asking, though, are you facilitating that; is the State Department helping in any way to facilitate that?MR. CROWLEY:
Actually, you’ve got a highly capable British ambassador here. I don’t think that they need our help.QUESTION:
So just to –QUESTION:
Is there a precedent for something like this happening? Because I assume that Scottish law is very much like American law. There are issues of double jeopardy. You cannot retry this case. You cannot reverse; say this guy should not have been released; we regret it, so we want him back and so on. So, I mean, beyond just all the rhetoric and recommendation, so to speak, what is there to be gained? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I think for the most part, a review would at least provide some confidence to the American people and to – I mean, the people in Britain as well. We always remember that there were a number of nationalities represented on Pan Am 103. The United States suffered significant casualties in that terrorism attack, but also there were British casualties, there were Scottish casualties on the ground due to the airplane debris crashing into Lockerbie. So I think everybody has an interest in making sure that this was a decision that was made freely based on the best information available and did not represent any inappropriate or skewed action or actions by a government or an entity to skew the results.
So I think Foreign Secretary Hague indicated in his letter to the Secretary that, in fact, last year, given the controversy that erupted when the Scottish authorities made the decision that they made, that they already have made available a great deal of information on the basis of their decision. We certainly share the view of the four senators that if – in light of the fact that here we are coming up on the first anniversary and expectations here have not been met in terms of longevity, that perhaps once again, just resuming to make sure that the decision was based on the best available information at the time, no harm can come from that.QUESTION:
P.J., I’m not quite sure I understand. In other words, the Secretary is doing two things. She’s saying basically there’s not a heck of a lot that we can do, but we would like this to be reviewed; is that correct? And then if she is – if that is correct, and she’s talking about a review, what form of review is she asking for?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I think what she says in her letter, and again, you’ll see the text of the letter, to the extent that Scottish authorities can once again review and assure people about the information that they used for multiple medical sources, I mean, the senators and their letter to the Secretary raised questions – legitimate questions – about whether there – at this point, based on what we know now, that this was a straightforward analysis based on clear medical information and that there were no compromised sources of medical information that influenced the Scottish decision.
I think we are looking for that kind of reassurance from Scottish authorities, but we – at the end of this, we just have this fundamental disagreement. We regret that the Scottish authorities made this decision. We had objected to it then and now, but this was their decision to make.QUESTION:
Do you have any comment on the report that the United States is considering sending Governor Bill Richardson to
North Korea?MR. CROWLEY:
The United States is not considering sending Governor Richardson to North Korea.QUESTION:
Also, any comment on the report that the United States has asked on South Korea to exercise restraint on the Cheonan
Well, I don’t know that it’s for the United States to suggest that to South Korea. In fact, the Government of South Korea has shown enormous restraint and we respect greatly the way that they have conducted themselves in the aftermath of the Cheonan
sinking. And we will have the opportunity to talk this week to Korean officials about next steps, and that’s what Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton will be doing, among other things, when they meet with their Korean counterparts later this week in the 2+2 meetings.QUESTION:
Afghanistan? MR. CROWLEY:
You mentioned reintegration, and the Secretary has actually been talking about that for quite a while. Gates recently talked about his view that there are – oh, no, sorry, it was Panetta who said that there are probably a hundred or two hundred al-Qaida in the entire country.
And so I guess what I’m asking for is an update on the Secretary’s thinking about the feasibility of reintegration. Has she had more refinement in how she thinks that could work? She was saying it might be a small number who would come over. Any thoughts that she now has?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, again, you have the – both the terms of reconciliation and the terms – reintegration. Reintegration has always pointed to the foot soldiers, those who we think are not inspired by any – for any ideological purpose. In fact, they may have been drawn into the insurgency for economic or other tribal reasons. And that number – it’s hard for me to put a particular number on that. And then in fact, there are leadership questions and those – we think that’s possible that some people, for a variety of reasons, may choose to follow the guidelines that the Afghan Government, supported by the United States, have put forward in terms of renouncing violence, rejecting al-Qaida, and respecting the Afghan constitution.
But as Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates and others have said, there may or may not be a large number of those who are willing to take that step. But we’ll see. This is all part of reviewing the program and the plan that Afghanistan has put forward, both in light of the London conference and in light of the peace jirga earlier this spring.
I’ll come to you.QUESTION:
On the Washington Post
big expose today on the intelligence community, I wondered if this report on the unwieldy and redundant intelligence community is going to lead to any kind of review here of – between the State Department and how it deals with the intelligence community. It’s sort of – remember – it may – having us all remember the Christmas Day bomber and what diplomatic officials had said at that time.MR. CROWLEY:
Sure. And in fact, we haven’t waited for any Washington Post
expose to do that. There’s been a very significant process of reviewing the lessons learned from the Christmas Day bomber. And in fact, we have adjusted our operating procedures, our interaction both with the NCTC, the terrorist screening center, and other elements of the intelligence community. So that review and the changes in our procedures has already largely been adopted.
I would just simply say we are very proud of INR, our intelligence analysis and research team. They are formally a part of the intelligence community. They are the smallest element of the intelligence community. But I think the hundreds of analysts that we have who work here at the State Department contribute significantly to the – both the integration and the understanding of global events, and they’re very significantly involved in the synthesis of intelligence reporting that goes into, among other things, the presidential daily briefing.QUESTION:
A couple questions.MR. CROWLEY:
Drug violence in
Mexico. Last week they had the car bombing in Juarez, as I understand it, a new tactic, a new twist, in the violence. I’m wondering how – how that – how you see that, how significant that is in terms of an escalation of the violence. And more broadly, the – of course, there was the massacre yesterday. The trend continues to increase of deaths and violence. Is the U.S. effort in this really failing?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, it is a shared effort between the United States and Mexico. I don’t think we’ve ever underestimated the – this challenge. It is something that we’ve worked hard on. It’s something that we have invested significantly in. The level of cooperation between Mexican authorities and U.S. authorities is as good and significant as it has ever been, and I think it becomes closer and closer as our determination grows. We’re seeing what’s happening there. We understand that on our side of the border we have responsibilities with regard to the flow of money and weapons that help to fuel the drug-related violence. We are working very closely with Mexican authorities both in terms of the provision of assistance, but also to help them with their capacity building.
So this is very much an ongoing struggle. It is hard. It’s going to take a long time to accomplish. But I think we’re confident that we have the right kind of relationship. We have significant cooperation going on with our Mexican counterparts. But we also know that the drug cartels themselves have significant capabilities. They’ve got a lot of money that they can spend on this. They’re trying hard to intimidate the Mexican officials and the Mexican Government. I think we’re encouraged by the response that we continue to see inside Mexico as they endeavor to combat this scourge.QUESTION:
The car bombing, in particular, doesn’t give you any particular concern that this --MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, it may represent a different tactic. But I think we’ve recognized all along that unfortunately, these drug cartels, they have an enormous amount of resources at their disposal. They can buy any kind of capability they want. But we are determined, working with Mexico, to do everything in our power to reduce this violence that affects not only the Mexican people but our own.QUESTION:
P.J. --MR. CROWLEY:
Okay, go ahead.QUESTION:
South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said yesterday that this is not the right time to discuss the resumption of the Six-Party Talks and denounced North Korea for trying to use the Six-Party Talks to avoid international tension from the Cheonan
. Do you agree?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, as I think Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell said here last week, we’re always prepared to talk, but there are some definite steps that we have to see from North Korea before that becomes possible. So I think we agree fully with the South Korean foreign minister that there are conditions and obligations that North Korea has to demonstrate a willingness to tackle before we would consider having a follow-on conversation.QUESTION:
The Mitchell visit? The Mitchell visit?MR. CROWLEY:
Yesterday after his meeting with George Mitchell, the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said that the direct talks should not resume unless previous commitments are adhered to. I think he was – he means the settlement – Hebron settlement (inaudible). What is your view, or has former Senator Mitchell talked to you about this issue?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we continue to underscore to Arab League member states the importance of building on
Middle East peace efforts and supporting proximity talks. As we’ve said here many times, the only way to end the conflict is for both parties to progress towards direct negotiations that allow us to address the fundamental issues at the heart of this process. And we will continue to engage Arab League states and seek their support to help leaders make this vitally important but difficult decision as soon as they feel ready.QUESTION:
Do you consider his statements to be not helpful to U.S. policy?MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, I understand it represents a point of view. Everyone wants to put specific conditions on the resumption of talks. We’re trying to get them into talks. We understand that we continue to work to lay the foundation for successful talks. Everyone’s got their view as to what is necessary before everyone feels confident that the timing is right. That’s why George Mitchell continues his interaction with both parties directly but also key states – the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, others – to try to find the right formula to give everyone confidence that the timing is right to take this important step.
So I’m not saying it’s helpful or unhelpful. The reality is we’re working as hard as we can and seeking the support of other countries, Egypt being one of them, to try to get the parties into direct negotiations as soon as possible.QUESTION:
But that would be a tremendous help by the Arab League secretary general. If he’s sold on the idea of direct talks, it would give a good cover to the Palestinian president. MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I mean, hang on a sec. I mean, obviously, we were gratified by the Arab League statement weeks ago both supporting and then reaffirming the proximity talks. We are working hard with the parties and with others to try to create the circumstances and the environment which would allow direct negotiations to begin. Everyone’s got their view of what the right conditions are. We ultimately hope that the leaders will, as soon as possible, make this tough decision and agree to direct negotiations. We’re not there yet. There’s still work to be done. And we appreciate everyone’s support and interest as we kind of work through this and see if we can’t find the right set of circumstances that allows direct negotiations to begin.QUESTION:
Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
On Cuba, is there any reaction or information on the meeting with – the U.S. diplomatic mission between relatives of political prisoners who refuse to go to Spain that’s meeting right now, happening today? It’s supposed to be at one o'clock Havana time.MR. CROWLEY:
I don’t have any information on the meeting, so why don’t we – if it’s going on right now, why don’t you ask tomorrow and we’ll have a readout.QUESTION:
Suriname. Do you have any comment on the Suriname parliament’s choice for a new president?MR. CROWLEY:
I’ll take the question. QUESTION:
How do you view the visit of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri to Damascus in view of the ICC ruling is likely to come in September? Do you think that
Syria is trying to sort of create some sort of a daylight between it and Iran, for instance?MR. CROWLEY:
I’m not sure – help me on – what’s the – how’s the – how does the ICC fit into this? I mean, just in terms of the optics of -- QUESTION:
Well, I mean, of course. I mean, just the dynamics of it all. I mean, after all, this is Saad Hariri, the son of Rafiq Hariri.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, obviously, these are two countries that coexist side-by-side. There is a history between them. We think that the meeting on Sunday was an important step. We hope it will help improve relations between the two countries. We also recognize that there have been significant gaps of trust given the history between Syria and Lebanon. We appreciate confidence-building measures like the ones that were discussed in the meeting, but we recognize that these confidence-building measures have to be a two-way street and have to be reciprocated by both countries. So – but we think this – dialogue like this is very important to regional stability.QUESTION:
Thank you. QUESTION:
Thank you.MR. CROWLEY:
Yeah. Wait. No, no.QUESTION:
Can we go back on a small point to the Libya thing? Would a demand for review by the U.S. or request for review or reassurance just simply go back to the decision to release al-Megrahi, or would it go back to anything else in the case? Because al-Megrahi was appealing his conviction. Does the U.S. believe there was any merit to that, that – are you looking for a broader review of who else ought to have been named in – as responsible for this?MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, as to the status of any appeal – I mean, remember, this was a Scottish tribunal.QUESTION:
I can’t tell you what – the status of any appeal, even if it’s ongoing, from the past years. I just don’t know.QUESTION:
No, I wasn’t asking that. I was asking whether, in light of the fact that he had made an appeal and the fact that you’re asking for a review of his --MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I don’t think --QUESTION:
-- repatriation -- MR. CROWLEY:
I mean, for example, let’s remember, he was convicted. He was in prison. It was our view that he should stay in prison for the rest of his life. So I don’t know how an appeal enters into this. He wasn’t released because of his appeal. He was released on what the Scottish authorities considered to be special humanitarian grounds. I think given our interest because of the expectations of the families of the victims of Pan Am 103, it was their expectation, as was ours, that he would serve out his entire sentence in Scottish prison. That to the extent that Scottish authorities can review this and once again provide a reassurance that they made the decision based on a wide range of medical evidence and information that was available to them, not on the word of any one medical professional, that would at least give people reassurance that they soundly considered a wide range of information rather than just the information provided by any one individual, if that individual even provided information at all.
But again, we recognize that this was their decision to make. We regret they made the decision they made. But certainly, given that we are going to be coming up on the first anniversary of his release, to the extent that Scottish authorities can at least give us reassurances that they made the decision they made based on a wide range of information, that will be helpful. It won’t, obviously, reverse the decision that they made.QUESTION:
(The briefing was concluded at 1:56 p.m.)
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