1:30 p.m. EDTMR. CROWLEY:
Continuing on, as you heard a short time ago, the Secretary spoke in the last hour to the delegates of the President’s Forum for Young African Leaders. She is already including – visited with 37 African women entrepreneurs, and she’ll be addressing later on this afternoon delegates to the African Growth and Opportunity Act conference. The President will also be hosting a forum with the Young African Leaders at the White House shortly and then will be meeting with the AGOA Forum later on this evening.
Updating you on U.S. support for victims of the disastrous flooding in
Pakistan, over the last 24 hours, we have added to the number of meals delivered to civilian and military officials – 13 separate supply flights. We now have delivered more than 316,000 halal meals to Pakistan with another 110,000 expected to be delivered overnight.
Secretary Gates has authorized the deployment of four Chinook and two Blackhawk helicopters from the 101st
Airborne in Afghanistan over to Pakistan to assist. Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, they have not yet been able to arrive in Pakistan, but will be trying again overnight. And the State Department has reactivated its texting program, and anyone can text Swat to 50555, and in doing so, make a $10 contribution to the victims of the flooding in Pakistan.
A couple of other quick notes -- QUESTION:
Can you repeat that number, please?MR. CROWLEY:
Sure. Text Swat, S-w-a-t, to 50555 on your cell phone. In doing so, you’ll make a $10 contribution to the flood victims in Pakistan.
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero just arrived in Tegucigalpa and will be meeting with senior government officials, business and civil society leaders, in Honduras. She’ll meet later this afternoon with President Lobo and continue to monitor the progress that Honduras is undergoing to normalize its ties with the international community.
And finally, before taking your questions, the United States is extremely concerned about the violence today along the Israel-
Lebanon border zone. We are in touch with both sides and the UN mission there, UNIFIL mission, and working to establish the facts on this incident as quickly as possible. We deeply regret the loss of life. We urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint to avoid an escalation and maintain the ceasefire that is now in place.
On the Israel-Lebanon border, can you get any more – be any more detailed about how you’re in touch? Through embassies or from Washington or however?MR. CROWLEY:
Yeah, all of the above. The UN – the UNIFIL officers worked with both sides to establish a ceasefire so that the victims of the incident can be successfully moved, including the injured. We are in touch with both governments, both here and at post, trying to, as best we can, determine how this started. There might be a formal meeting on the ground supervised by the UN tomorrow to go into greater detail about this.
Have you been -- MR. CROWLEY:
Wait, hold on. One at a time.QUESTION:
Have you been briefed on exactly what happened?MR. CROWLEY:
We are trying to understand what happened. I don’t think that we yet have a full picture.
I wanted to ask who’s responsible for this incident, do you think?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we’re trying to ascertain the facts. QUESTION:
There has been – the picture has not emerged as to how this thing started. Some are saying that the Israelis were on their side, the Lebanese are on their side. MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I mean, we have gained a perspective from both sides, but at this point, as you know, first reports of something that happened in these kind of circumstances may or may not be reliable. So we’re trying, as best we can, to figure out what happened. Obviously, our greatest concern is that whatever did happen not be repeated. The region has enough tension as it is.QUESTION:
P.J., considering the fragility of the Lebanese situation, are you concerned that this may sort of snowball out of control? With – there’s a great deal of tension between Israel and Hezbollah and what is going on.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, and I think we’re grateful that a ceasefire was able to be established. It’s in place now. We hope that will continue. You’re exactly right; the last thing that we want to see is this incident expand into something more significant, and that’s why we and others have been in contact throughout the day and are trying to make sure that it goes no further. QUESTION:
Will there be a Security Council meeting this afternoon on this?MR. CROWLEY:
I think the Security Council was briefed late this morning on the situation and is monitoring it as well, obviously, given the work that was done in the aftermath by the UNIFIL contingent.QUESTION:
Is it your understanding this was between the Israelis and the Government of Lebanon troops? There’s a – most of the Israelis --MR. CROWLEY:
Again, Charlie, I understand it’s a fair question, but I just don’t want to get into the specifics at this point. We’re still trying to figure out precisely what happened.QUESTION:
Anything on Senator
Mitchell’s trip to the Middle East? Is he going this week, next week?MR. CROWLEY:
He will travel to the region soon. I think we’re still working on the travel arrangements. QUESTION:
Has there been any response to the letter that was submitted by the Arab League, the follow-up committee – the Arab Peace Initiative committee – that was sent to the President last Thursday? MR. CROWLEY:
We have maintained our discussions with the parties. I’m not sure that there’s been a formal response at this point. The senator will be traveling to the region soon and we’ll continue the dialogue that we have ongoing to try to get the parties into direct negotiations. But I’m not aware that there’s been a formal response yet. QUESTION:
But as far as you’re concerned, there’s been no written guarantees that the Palestinians have requested – there’s been no agreement to a trilateral meeting as – I misunderstood yesterday. So could you clarify all that for us?MR. CROWLEY:
Okay. Let’s take it one step at a time. We are seeking having the parties enter into direct negotiations as soon as possible. We hope that the leaders will make that decision soon. And then we’ll see where the process goes from here. So I know there is this effort to try to say who will meet with who, when, where, how. We want to get into that process, and we’re hoping that the parties will agree soon. And then we hope the direct negotiations will begin to yield the progress that we hope for.QUESTION:
Would you say that at least the Department of State has an idea of what the terms of reference are, what is the timetable, what is – all these things? I mean, they’re not going into these negotiations blindly, are they?MR. CROWLEY:
Again, we want to see the parties in direct negotiations. There are lots of questions as to how this will proceed. We’ve done a fair amount of work through the proximity talks. It’s our view that we’ve taken the proximity talks as far as they can advance. We want to get the parties into direct negotiations. We don’t want to have either side set preconditions prior to the start of the negotiations. We understand there are questions about how they will proceed, but that’s why we want to get into these negotiations. And we are working earnestly with both sides to make sure that they have what we consider to be the right expectations and the right foundation leading into direct negotiations.QUESTION:
So one last thing. So these negotiations are a follow-up to the proximity talks; they are not a totally fresh kind of negotiations starting from point zero, so to speak?MR. CROWLEY:
We are – as we get the parties into direct negotiations, I think everybody is – understands that there have been prior work done in this area. We have been discussing with the – with both sides what their expectations are about these negotiations, but we think that now is the time to get into them. I’m not going to go into detail from here as to what particular understandings exist at this point as we encourage both sides to say yes.
P.J., the Treasury Department today issued or announced U.S. sanctions against about 21 companies in six foreign countries that it suggested are helping advance
Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, et cetera – Japan, Germany, Italy. Does that suggest that these countries are doing a poor job on their own that the United States has to go in and sanction these entities?MR. CROWLEY:
No, not at all. It suggests that there is a dynamic environment here. Sanctions have been in place for some time. And Iran, through various front entities, has tried to work hard to evade existing sanctions. Obviously, we’ve just put in place both a new round of international sanctions and a new round of national steps, and this is just an ongoing process.
We are very, very satisfied with the steps taken by the EU in light of the UN Security Council Resolution 1929. These were aggressive, expansive steps that we believe, taken as a whole combination of international and national steps, is having the right effect on the leadership of Iran.QUESTION:
Follow-up on that?MR. CROWLEY:
Mr. Einhorn is visiting Japan today, and I believe there will be discussions among some what Japan should do in terms of banks and all these companies. Would the United States Government ask the Japanese Government to actually put sanctions on banks and Japanese banks and – Japanese firms?MR. CROWLEY:
Clearly, among the central elements of both international and national sanctions will be a dialogue that we have with countries and within the financial industry to try to make sure that, whether it’s insurance, whether it’s capital, to have the kind of impact we want to see have. So in light of these additional steps, we’re going back and talking to these countries and these sectors.
At the heart of it, companies and sectors that value their reputations, they will not want to assume the risk of wondering, for a particular entity, is this a front company for
North Korea, is it a front company for Iran. And we are seeing that – a reluctance to provide the insurance or the capital for various projects associated with Iran, and we believe that is having an effect.
So we are trying to make sure that as – and as Mr. Einhorn said yesterday, this has to be an international effort. It can’t be just one part of the world but not another part of the world. This has to be done effectively across the international community to have the effect that we want to and convince the leaders of Iran or North Korea to change course.QUESTION:
Did I understand you a few minutes ago to say you think the combination of international and national steps is having the right effect on Iran? Did I hear you to say that?MR. CROWLEY:
I did say that. QUESTION:
And --MR. CROWLEY:
We believe – well, we believe it is having --QUESTION:
So my question is: What is your evidence of that?MR. CROWLEY:
We believe it is having an effect on the ground in Iran. It is getting increasingly difficult to do business in Iran. The cost of doing business for Iran is going up. And we are encouraged by what we’re seeing. Obviously, there’s more that needs to be done. That’s why Mr. Einhorn has been in
South Korea, is in Tokyo today, and will be making additional stops in the current weeks. And we sense that there may well be a willingness on the part of Iran to enter into the kind of dialogue that we have long sought. And so we think that the steps that have been taken, both at the United Nations and now follow-on steps taken by the United States, by the European Union, and other countries is getting Iran’s attention.QUESTION:
P.J., when you say you sense there may be a willingness on the part of Iran to enter into some kind of talks, what is that sense based on? What are you hearing or seeing that leads you to think that?MR. CROWLEY:
There are contacts between Iran and the European Union through Catherine Ashton and, at least in public statements that Iran has made recently, they’ve indicated a willingness to have a follow-on meeting. We would welcome such a meeting. But obviously, we will be seeing how serious Iran will be if and when they come to the table.QUESTION:
Can I just follow up?MR. CROWLEY:
I know that the sanctions are meant to be very tightly focused so that they don’t affect ordinary people, the general population. Do you – are you monitoring that in some way? And if so, how, to make sure that it’s hitting companies and not --MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I mean, entities that have questions can always come to the United States Government or others and to clarify what they should do. I mean, we’ve – also saw recently there was a concern that popped up involving the Educational Testing Service, because the bank that was handling their transactions in Iran itself decided to pull back from that business. I believe, if I saw the announcement, ETS has found another bank, because that is quite a legitimate service that ETS provides to help students in Iran apply for various educational opportunities. And they have since found another bank to be able to support their ongoing business.
So we are, in fact, looking to make sure that the impact is exactly where we directed it – towards the regime and the agencies that are tied to the nuclear program, to their missile program, and to other areas of concern. We certainly do not want to have an effect on the Iranian people. We think that the things that they do that connect Iran to the rest of the world should continue.QUESTION:
Can I just follow on at this point? You’re saying that you have signs that the sanctions are beginning to affect Iran. But on the other hand, you’re saying you don’t want to affect the Iranian people and these are not against the Iranian people, that’s one.
Second, do you have any signs that the Iranians may be having second thoughts about their obstinance? I mean --MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we’ll see. That depends on whether Iran is willing to engage in a lengthy process to try to answer the fundamental questions that we have about their nuclear program and then begin to address any other areas of conflict between us. We welcome that sustained, detailed dialogue. That’s not something that we’ve been able to do either recently or across the past 30 years. So we’re – as we have indicated, we’re willing to meet Iran anytime, anyplace within the P-5+1 to begin to address a series of issues, most significant to us, the nuclear issue.
We had the meeting last fall. We were looking for that to be the start of a process. But for a variety of reasons, it quickly was interrupted. And Iran, for a variety of reasons internally, was not able to engage as we hoped it would. So to the extent that Iran is willing to come forward again, engage constructively with the P-5+1, also with the IAEA, we would welcome that process.QUESTION:
Today, I read an interesting article in The Washington Times
. It is about a revival of the proliferation at work built by the Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan. Do you know who is this? Of course. (Laughter.)MR. CROWLEY:
We are quite – we are very aware of A.Q. Khan. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
Well, I’d like to know if – yes, everyone knows. I’d like to know if – as the intelligence agents in United States’ department is concerned about this possibility to have this revival in this proliferation (inaudible) working and about some contacts they would – had with some countries as – including Brazil and Nigeria and North Korea too?MR. CROWLEY:
A lot to that question. Obviously, the A.Q. Khan network has – or is responsible for some of the most serious cases of proliferation in recent decades. We have worked intensively with Pakistan and other countries to shut down that network. And while A.Q. Khan himself is out of business, according to the Government of Pakistan, we watch his network very closely for signs that others within his realm are still in business. It is something – it’s an ongoing focus of ours, and because we – this is a part of our broad international effort to try to stem sources of proliferation around the world. So it is an area of ongoing concern.QUESTION:
P.J. --MR. CROWLEY:
Wait, hold on.QUESTION:
Just a question on Iran. Has the U.S. received an invitation from the Iranian president which – as far as direct --MR. CROWLEY:
The dialogue I just mentioned is ongoing between Iran and Catherine Ashton on behalf of the P-5+1.QUESTION:
Can we go back to the Lebanese (inaudible) incident? Has Secretary Clinton called Israeli or Lebanese officials today?MR. CROWLEY:
Can I just ask --QUESTION:
P.J., you said yesterday you are in direct contact with North Korea over Mr. Gomes. Do you have any update on his fate?MR. CROWLEY:
Pakistani president in France has said that – I can quote him – that “I believe that the international community, which Pakistan belongs to, is in the process of losing the war against the Taliban,” he said in an interview to a French newspaper. MR. CROWLEY:
All right. Say that again?QUESTION:
He said “I believe that the international community, which Pakistan belongs to, is in the process of losing the war against the Taliban.” He told a French newspaper. It’s in French. I translate it.MR. CROWLEY:
Okay. I don’t know that we agree with that statement, but the president is entitled to his point of view. We respect that. We understand that this is a difficult and ongoing struggle, but we do not think at this point that the tide has tilted one direction or the other.QUESTION:
But he’s a major ally on the front line.MR. CROWLEY:
I understand. I understand that.QUESTION:
And when he says we are losing the war on terror --MR. CROWLEY:
I understand the statement. I mean, we recognize this as a difficult, long-term struggle. And on any given day, we take steps which may give us the upper hand and we recognize that on another day, our adversaries will take steps and are able to inflict significant impact on the population or the forces – the international forces in Afghanistan.
This is a significant struggle. It is – we certainly agree with the president that it is an international struggle; it’s not about any one country. And we are determined to work as hard as we can for as long as it takes to succeed, not just in one part of the world, but obviously, we are concerned that some of these elements are linked to global networks, and this is not just a struggle in South Asia. It’s a struggle that, from South Asia, has impacts in other parts of the world. QUESTION:
So you do not agree to the words losing the war against the Taliban?MR. CROWLEY:
This – I think we – as our military leaders have made clear, we have not yet won, but I don’t think that I would characterize that we are losing.QUESTION:
North Korea announced yesterday it will do the counterattack in the response to the ROK and U.S. military exercise. Is the U.S. preparing for the possibility of the counterattack? And what’s your position on the announcement? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, the exercises that are ongoing are meant to signify and underscore the importance of our alliance with South Korea and our commitment with South Korea to be a force for stability in the region. We don’t want to see an expansion of tension. We don’t want to see a war of words. We don’t want to see any further provocative steps. We certainly don’t want to see a conflict in the region. And we would hope that North Korea, for its part, will avoid any further provocative actions.QUESTION:
Thank you. MR. CROWLEY:
(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)