1:10 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: First of all, we welcome two journalists with the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship Program who are with us this afternoon in Washington: Gikunju of Kenya and Lei Lei of China, along with Katie Rudolph of the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship Organization. They have completed a five-month program with the Columbia Missourian and Chicago Tribune respectively, and will be heading home tomorrow, but we welcome you here to the State Department briefing room.
You saw a few minutes ago President Obama appear with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Secretary Clinton has joined the President today for the first of a series of meetings, first with Prime Minister Netanyahu, later on this afternoon with President Abbas, and then King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt as we relaunch direct negotiations here in Washington.
Also this morning, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg met with Chinese Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Issues Wu Dawei as part of our ongoing consultation on developments in the Korean Peninsula. We can also announce that on Friday, Deputy Secretary Steinberg will meet with Wi Sung-lac, who is the special representative for Korean Peninsula peace, here at the Department of State on the morning of September 3.
And finally, before taking your questions, U.S. officials in Moscow and St. Petersburg confirmed that several gatherings took place across Russia to demonstrate support for Article 31 of the Russian Constitution. And according to our Embassy and consulate, dozens of protestors were detained in both cities. Article 31 guarantees to Russian citizens the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets. Since 2009, Russian citizens have been holding similar rallies on the 31st day of every month that has 31 days.
The United States reiterates the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly enshrined in the Russian Constitution, as well as in international agreements with which Russia has signed.
QUESTION: Well, that’s all very interesting, that last thing. So what do you make of the fact that all these people were detained?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are concerned by actions by the Russian Government in recent years, shrinking the space for civil society. We have concerns about intimidation of citizens, intimidation of journalists, intimidations of nongovernmental operators who are working on behalf of the Russian people. It is part of our ongoing dialogue with the Russian Government, and we hope and expect that Russia will live up to its human rights obligations.
QUESTION: Well, have you been in touch with them about these – about yesterday?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And how?
MR. CROWLEY: We – well, through our Embassy, we have expressed our concern to the Russian Government and that conversation is ongoing.
QUESTION: All right. Another subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What is the travel status of Imam Feisal?
MR. CROWLEY: Imam Feisal is in the United Arab Emirates. He is – will be completing his travel tomorrow and returning to the United States following what we think is a very successful tour that includes stops in Bahrain and Qatar. We had the very kind of dialogue and activity that we had hoped for to help people understand what it’s like to be a Muslim here in the United States.
QUESTION: Returning to New York on Friday?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe so.
QUESTION: Well, what – tomorrow is Thursday.
QUESTION: Is it Friday or Thursday?
MR. CROWLEY: No, he will be returning – he completes his trip tomorrow. I believe he’s back in New York on Friday.
QUESTION: And can you --
QUESTION: Is he --
QUESTION: Is that – can you – is that – this is – since yesterday --
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Well, all right – no, he --
QUESTION: -- this has been on and off and back and forth.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Is it Friday or Thursday?
MR. CROWLEY: He will be – he will return to the United States on Thursday.
QUESTION: Will he come to --
QUESTION: May we change --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: -- to different topic?
QUESTION: Can I --
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are you going to have any sort of readout on that trip? Are you going to make any sort of – will he be available? Is he going to be doing the media? When we talked earlier –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, once he return – once he completes his tour with us, he’s free to do whatever he wishes. So I believe he has indicated that once he’s back in the United States, he will make himself available for interviews back here.
QUESTION: Can – just a different topic on Wu Dawei’s visit?
QUESTION: Wait --
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout of that meeting at all yet? I mean, it’s no secret that he’s been touring – he was in Japan and South Korea and pushing for a restart of the Six-Party Talks. Do you have anything to say about whether you are, at this time, feel this is the right time to do that?
MR. CROWLEY: Which meeting, the – which meeting are we talking about?
QUESTION: Wu Dawei.
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, Wu Dawei. Obviously, there were recent meetings both with Chinese officials in Pyongyang, with Kim Jong-il traveling to China. He was here to provide his perspective, China’s perspective of where we are in light of these conversations and in light of recent events, including the sinking of the Cheonan. We will develop our own thoughts. We will have further consultations, we – on the path forward.
But first and foremost, we are in a situation that is of the making of North Korea. And it will be up to North Korea to demonstrate that it is prepared to cease its belligerent behavior, live up to its obligations, begin to take actions associated with the 2005 joint statement. And if North Korea is prepared to demonstrate a willingness to act more constructively, then we will respond appropriately and be prepared for further engagement. So we’re going to have these kinds of consultations like we’ve had this week with our partners from China and South Korea as part of this process. We’ll have further consultations and develop our ideas on how to proceed.
QUESTION: What specific steps are you looking for them to take before you decide that this is the right time to return to talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are international – there are specific obligations that North Korea has agreed to in the past. Just making public statements of a willingness to come back to a negotiation is not enough. There are specific steps under the 2005 joint statement that North Korea can take to demonstrate that it is, in fact, committed to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. We are prepared to engage North Korea as part of this process, but in light of the sinking of the Cheonan and other provocative steps that North Korea has taken in recent months, including nuclear tests, including missile firings, we want to see a fundamental change in North Korea’s behavior. And as it demonstrates that it’s prepared to engage the United States and other countries constructively, we will be prepared to respond.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I still don’t understand what specifically you’re asking them to do or you want them to do first. Because there is a whole bunch of stuff in that 2005 agreement and in subsequent agreements that they – they took some of those steps and then walked some of them back. Which ones would you like them to –
MR. CROWLEY: Right, and as we’ve indicated, we will be guided by North Korean actions. There are a variety of steps that North Korea can take.
QUESTION: Such as?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I don’t have a laundry list. We are prepared to engage North Korea. We want to see an advance from the situation that we are currently in. But it is up to North Korea first and foremost to demonstrate, not just by words but by actions, that it’s prepared to follow a more constructive path. As North Korea demonstrates to us that it’s prepared to engage constructively, then we will evaluate those actions and, after consultations with other countries, be prepared to respond.
QUESTION: On that –
QUESTION: When –
QUESTION: Can I ask you something on that topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Since we’re on North Korea. There are reports that North Korea has falsified trade documents in order to avoid international sanctions. Do you have any information –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll defer to Treasury. Doesn’t surprise us at all. There is this cat and mouse process that does go on. We are aggressively pursuing sanctions against North Korea. We announced additional steps earlier this week. We’re not surprised that North Korea will try to respond and hide its activities, but we are confident working with the international community on implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and additional national steps that we’ve taken that not only governments but also the private sector will be very wary of doing business with North Korea for fear that they will trigger sanctions against themselves. So we think it – the approach that we’ve taken since the sinking of the Cheonan has caught North Korea’s attention. But we will be guided by what North Korea does in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: Follow up the North Korea issue. And South Korean representative Wi Sung-lac arrived Friday, this Friday, in Washington, D.C. And will the United States hold three-party talks meeting? And he arrived here and now U.S. and China and South Korea have talks together?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we will do what we’ve done in the past within the Six-Party process. It’s not just about the United States. We have our own views about the steps that should be taken going forward. We will listen carefully to the views of other countries. And then with that consultation, we will see what we can do. But in the meantime, really this is about North Korea and what it’s prepared to do, and we will be looking for concrete actions by North Korea that demonstrate a seriousness of purpose.
QUESTION: How did you trust the Chinese Government? The Six-Party Talks is not working straight since a long time. How did you do –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Six-Party process has importance. It has value. Now, within the Six-Party process, obviously, there’s the opportunity for bilateral discussions as well. What we are all trying to do is to get North Korea to fundamentally change course. As has been suggested here, there have been times in the past where North Korea has taken constructive steps. And there have been times in the recent past where, unfortunately, it’s increased tensions in the region by taking provocative actions, including most recently the sinking of the Cheonan.
We are prepared to engage North Korea, but before we can do that we want to see what North Korea itself is willing to do as it demonstrates that it’s willing to change its current course, cease these provocative actions that increase tensions in the region, result in the death of property or death of 46 sailors in the case of the Cheonan. We will be prepared to respond accordingly, but what’s crucial here is what North Korea does in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: New topic?
QUESTION: Change of topic?
QUESTION: Wait, just one more about President Carter.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Just because President Carter was here yesterday.
MR. CROWLEY: President Carter was here yesterday afternoon.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if you can tell us sort of what he talked about with the Secretary, presumably North Korea, and did his visit there give us any insights into their sincerity or lack thereof?
MR. CROWLEY: President Carter was here, spent just about an hour with Secretary Clinton, shared his views of his private trip, and we will keep his insights private.
QUESTION: Can I just ask can you share with us what is the most important step North Korea can take to show they’re committed to this process?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, a first step that North Korea can take is to cease its belligerent and provocative actions. If North Korea is prepared to engage more constructively with its neighbors, other countries in the region, assertively take steps to reduce tensions, that will improve the overall environment. And that environment then becomes more open to further dialogue and engagement. But there are some specific actions that North Korea has committed to under the 2005 --
QUESTION: Can share one of those?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Can you share one of those examples, a specific example of something --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as I just said, there are things that North Korea has done over the past year that have become impediments to progress. Nuclear tests, missile firings, these kinds of actions impede the dialogue that North Korea professes it wants to have with the United States and other countries.
So as North Korea demonstrates that it’s prepared to act constructively, act according to international standards, then we will evaluate that – those steps, and then be prepared to respond accordingly. We’re not going to talk just to talk. We’re not going to engage North Korea absent some specific actions that North Korea demonstrates it’s prepared to take.
QUESTION: P.J., the confusion is you keep talking about these actions, but you won’t say what they are. So how are the North Koreans supposed to know what they are? And I’m just – I so you say the first one should be ceasing its belligerent and provocative actions. What was the belligerent and provocative action that they took? Was it the sinking of the ship?
MR. CROWLEY: They sunk a ship.
QUESTION: All right. And that’s stopped, correct?
MR. CROWLEY: Well –
QUESTION: They’re not still sinking ships. (Laughter.) So they have ceased their belligerent and provocative action, correct?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, they’ve made no – for example, they --
QUESTION: So they need to apologize?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m --
QUESTION: They have to admit responsibility for it? What it is that – I mean they’ve stopped. They’re not doing anything belligerent and provocative right now, at least according to what you just said.
MR. CROWLEY: No, that’s according to what you said. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, you said the last one was the sinking of the ship. And since they’re not actually out there actively sinking South Korean ships on a daily basis, they could argue that they’ve stopped.
MR. CROWLEY: Look, it –
QUESTION: So what is it that they need to do? Or is there a period of time where they – like over six months that they can’t do anything belligerent or provocative?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly – certainly if North Korea – the absence of the kind of actions that I specified – further missile tests, further nuclear tests, further sinkings of ships, further confrontation by their military forces. In other words, if there is a genuine effort to reduce tension in the region that does, in fact, create an environment where engagement and negotiation can be constructive.
But certainly, the fact that North Korea has failed to take responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan. That’s something that we see. It’s something that South Korea sees. So if North Korea suggests publicly or privately that it’s prepared to come back to Six-Party Talks, that’s not good enough. We will be guided by what North Korea does. And we don’t have a specific list that says you’ve got to do A, B, and C in order to qualify for this. We will be looking to see if there – if there is a – if North Korea changes its current pattern of behavior, acts more responsibly, begins to interact more constructively with other countries in the region, we will see that and see that as a concrete sign that North Korea is prepared to engage.
QUESTION: But here’s the problem. You say you will be guided by the actions that North Korea – that they do – that North Korea does. But, in fact, the first thing that you said is you will be guided by what they don’t do, not what they do.
MR. CROWLEY: Matthew, this --
QUESTION: You said to cease belligerent and provocative actions.
MR. CROWLEY: This is --
QUESTION: So if they stop --
MR. CROWLEY: This is a situation of North Korea’s making. We did not sink the Cheonan; North Korea did. We have not tested nuclear devices; North Korea did. We have not fired off missiles that threaten other countries in the region; North Korea has.
North Korea wants a different kind of relationship with other countries in the region and around the world, including the United States. Then it’s up to North Korea to demonstrate that it’s prepared to be a constructive participant in the Six-Party process, that it’s willing to have a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world. We will evaluate this on an ongoing basis. This is a deliberative process. We are going to consult closely with other countries in the region. But the responsibility here rests with North Korea. It has to demonstrate. It has to earn its place back at the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Same topic.
QUESTION: Same topic.
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no.
QUESTION: Just a quick one.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to go off a previous question, yesterday Wu Dawei said he was staying for three days and Wi Sung-lac is coming on Friday. So can you say that there’s a possibility that there might be a Wi-Wu-Steinberg meeting? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: I --
QUESTION: Is that a possibility?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not anticipating that as a possibility.
QUESTION: Same topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Same topic.
QUESTION: Yes. So what is your position on the Chinese – China’s proposal, three steps proposal? Are you saying that you are not ready to accept China’s three steps proposal?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, the Six-Party process involves close and ongoing consultation with the other partners in the process. We’re certain that China has its own ideas on how to proceed from where we are to a better place. We have our own ideas. Other countries also will have their thoughts on how to move forward. We will be consulting, as we are this week. We’ll have further consultations in the upcoming weeks as we evaluate what we think the next steps should be.
We are prepared to engage North Korea, but we have to – North Korea has to demonstrate that that engagement is going to be constructive. It is North Korea that has put impediments against progress in recent weeks and months. There were some things that we were prepared to do back in the spring, and the sinking of the Cheonan made it impossible to pursue those actions. We are prepared to come back to that place, but before that is possible, we want to see North Korea fundamentally change its behavior.
We don’t have, at this point, specific things that says it’s got to be this, this, and this. We will be developing our ideas. We’ll be sharing our ideas with other countries. They’ll be sharing their perspective with us and we’ll arrive at what we think is the appropriate course to move ahead. But even as we consult, the primary responsibility rests with North Korea. North Korea is responsible for the place we’re in now. If North Korea wants to move from here somewhere else, then North Korea has to demonstrate it’s prepared to change what it does.
QUESTION: Was that proposal discussed in the meeting? Can you say if that proposal was discussed in the meeting today – the three steps China is --
MR. CROWLEY: Look, I’m not going to characterize – the Chinese Government can characterize its own position. We will – we listened attentively in the meeting with Deputy Secretary Steinberg. I think there was a follow-up meeting with Ambassador Bosworth and Ambassador Kim. We – we’ll hear what the Chinese have to say. We’ll hear what South Korea has to say. We’ll be consulting with our other partners in the region as well. And we will chart a course forward.
But even as we consult on future engagement with North Korea, the primary responsibility is North Korea’s. It brought us to this point and if we’re going to move to a better place, it will be up to North Korea to demonstrate that it’s prepared to engage constructively.
QUESTION: Didn’t United States ask the Chinese why the North Korean neighbor apologized to South Korea internally?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that really is up to North Korea to take responsibility for its actions. We’re all trying to interpret what has happened and work collaboratively to determine the best path forward. That’s what these consultations are about.
QUESTION: But P.J., as far as the North Korea behavior, do you believe that it depends on China? Because whenever something happens in the region, North Korea (inaudible), they travel to China for consultations.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we call it the Six-Party process because we have the countries that are most significantly affected by and have the ability to rethink, shape peace and security in the region. China has a special responsibility. It has been a leader within the Six-Party process. And we will look to China to demonstrate leadership going forward.
China has had recent high-level meetings with the North Koreans. We will value their – sharing their perspective with us and – but yes, China has a special and leading role to play in trying to push North Korea to be a more constructive player in this process.
QUESTION: P.J. --
QUESTION: Direct talks (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead, in the back.
QUESTION: So your position is to – Ambassador Wu has proposed --
QUESTION: I don’t think I understand Wu’s position.
QUESTION: -- another high-level bilateral meeting between the United States and North Korea.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t hear the beginning of your question.
QUESTION: So the – Ambassador Wu has proposed another high-level meeting between the United States and North Korea.
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: Can you (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not here to be Ambassador Wu’s spokesman. I’ll leave it to the Chinese to describe their view of the current situation. We’ll say that they came here to the State Department today, shared their perspective on where we are, their interpretation of what needs to be done based on their high-level conversations with North Korean leaders. We have our own ideas. We’ll be consulting further. We’ll be sharing our ideas at some point with our partners in this process. And together, we will chart a way forward. But I’ll leave it to China to describe its view of the current situation.
QUESTION: Also, the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s frequent visit to China is a positive sign for North Korea’s reform. Do you agree with him?
MR. CROWLEY: At this point, we’ve just had China’s perspective this morning. I’m not willing to read tea leaves here in terms of what the implications of these meetings are.
QUESTION: Since we solved that issue, can we move on --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: -- can we move on to another one --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: -- we’ll solve equally, on to the Middle East talks? Can you give us a --
MR. CROWLEY: Piece of cake.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) of what you expect to see here tomorrow when Secretary Clinton starts the direct – the relaunching of the direct talks?
MR. CROWLEY: I suppose we’ll have further details this afternoon. There was a – kind of a final walkthrough of events for tomorrow a little bit ago. I haven’t yet gotten a full readout. But we will have a Media Note this afternoon that will kind of provide further details. I would anticipate the day will start with statements by Secretary Clinton, President Abbas, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. There will then be a trilateral meeting in her outer office. There is the prospect of further – additional side meetings during the course of the time that they’ll be here. And then at the end, we’ll have a readout for you by George Mitchell.
QUESTION: Where will they make those – where will the three of them make their remarks? Presumably, it’s not going to be in the outer office.
MR. CROWLEY: I believe on the eighth floor in the --
QUESTION: Ben Franklin?
MR. CROWLEY: -- Ben Franklin Room. That will be open for media coverage.
QUESTION: And is there going to be like, a big table in there where they may – where they might sit and talk or are they – or all their talking is going to be done in other, less big rooms?
MR. CROWLEY: This was part of the subject of the walkthrough. I think they will be at a table, but again, I haven’t been fully briefed on what the specific arrangements are.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it round? And you don’t know if it’s round or square or --
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t describe the table. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: How much time are we talk – how many hours, basically?
MR. CROWLEY: I would anticipate that the delegations will be here, as a rough guess, for roughly three hours. It could be longer. We’ll – we don’t have the day entirely scripted and – but I would anticipate that George Mitchell will brief you sometime in the early to mid-afternoon. And because we do expect to have a very significant media contingent here tomorrow, we will move this briefing to the Dean Acheson.
QUESTION: And it will, of course, be carried by B-Net then as usual?
MR. CROWLEY: Oh, of course, yes.
QUESTION: The --
QUESTION: Sorry, go ahead. No, go ahead, Kirit. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I was just going to ask if – this is the Secretary’s first foray in bringing these two sides together by herself. Has she reached out to any – her predecessors who have tried to do this in the past? I know that Secretary Clinton did this when – sorry, Secretary Rice did this when – before she started her efforts.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, she’s had the opportunity to interact directly with a number of veterans. Some of them are still on the team or – and some of them are on the other teams. So for example, she has this relationship with this fellow who has spent some time talking to leaders, President Clinton, and she has benefitted from his direct experience.
But she also frequently discusses these issues with Ehud Barak, who has been a participant in this process before, and she frequently has interactions with President Abu Mazen and Saeb Erekat, who have – themselves have been a part of this process before. Dennis Ross is still a part of the team, George Mitchell has experience going back to the late ‘90s. So she’s already the recipient of a lot of experience in helping bring us to where we are. Over time, she has received briefings from those who have had experience here. But the benefit is, inside the room, both today and tomorrow, you have leaders on all sides who have understood the history of these efforts going back more than a decade.
QUESTION: The impact of the Hebron shootings overnight --
QUESTION: Does that include --
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on a second.
QUESTION: The impact of the Hebron shootings overnight, yes, we had a round of condemnations from the White House to the State Department to both parties in this – in these talks. Today, we have a group of settlers saying that they’re going to start construction, if they haven’t already started it, in response to yesterday’s shooting regardless of the fact that there is a moratorium.
What is the concern about these outside actors that neither Abbas nor Netanyahu can control directly that might have on these talks as they go forward?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, the – we are gratified that notwithstanding efforts by extremists on all sides to take actions that impede progress, the commitment that we see today with the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas – the statements of condemnation throughout the region yesterday, you’re seeing the kind of commitment and courage that we think is necessary to prevail.
The – yesterday’s violence was not an act of courage; it was an act of cowardice. What kind of courage does it take to murder a pregnant woman? Hamas is a captive of the conflict, but this conflict will end not through further violence; it will end through just negotiation. We understand fully that from our past experience, that during the course of the next year, there will be efforts on all sides to complicate, if not impede, further progress.
It’s going to be up to the leaders to demonstrate their commitment, as they are doing, as we speak, that they’re not going to be deterred by these acts on various sides. They’re demonstrating their commitment to try to work through the complex issues. And we are gratified by their support, their involvement, their commitment. And all we can say is we offer the same determination to try to end this conflict not through further violence, but through negotiation and a just agreement that produces two states living side by side in peace.
QUESTION: And then going to one of the core issues, Mr. Barak, whom you just referenced, apparently has told Haaretz that his side is willing to consider dividing Jerusalem into three parts – one part for Israelis, one part for Palestinians, and a shared region surrounding the holy sites for both Judaism and Islam, under perhaps some sort of international auspices. Has that come up at all? Can you even confirm that that would even be partial – a part of the deal, finally?
MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary had a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night. The President’s had a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu today. The Secretary will have further meetings here tomorrow. We are sharing ideas among the parties. And I can’t say – I haven’t been in the meetings today – whether this is the position that the Israelis have put on the table or not.
But clearly, the issues of settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security are the kinds of issues we’ve been talking about in the lead-up to these meetings. They’ll be discussed at these meetings, and we will be negotiating these issues as we try to reach a final agreement.
QUESTION: And what about September 26th? Any indication that the Israelis may actually extend it?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, the direct negotiations that we’ve sought for the past 19 months, they’ve arrived, they’re underway. We’re talking about all of the issues. We want to see the start of a vigorous process moving forward. That’s what we’re pursuing today, and we are touching all the bases.
QUESTION: P.J., a follow-up on --
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: Wait, hold on.
QUESTION: The word around the Palestinian delegation, that the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is quite adamant about having – freezing all settlement activities as a condition for continuation of the talks. Is the meeting that is ongoing now would be used to sort of prime a little bit or make it more flexible on these issues --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I suppose the virtue of being here with you and not down the street at the White House is I can report to you that these are meetings that are ongoing. All of the core issues are being discussed, and I have the benefit of not knowing precisely what they’re discussing at this moment.
QUESTION: Okay. But to follow up on that question that was just raised a minute ago about what the Israeli defense minister said, he talked about dividing the neighborhoods and so on, that the Arab neighborhoods will be in the Palestinian capital. But on the other hand, a spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu just came out and said that Jerusalem will remain the internal capital of Israel – undivided.
MR. CROWLEY: Look, we understand fully – I have been a part of previous rounds of these peace talks as well. There’s going to be a lot of public speculation. There’s going to be a lot of public posturing in the coming hours, days, weeks. There is a negotiation ongoing. That’s what counts. It’s not how you posture in public; it’s what you’re willing to deliver in private. That’s how you get to a final settlement. That’s why we felt that these direct negotiations were important. It is the only way to resolve these complex issues. But they’re going to be done at the negotiating table. They’re not going to be done here at the podium.
QUESTION: Yeah, P.J., Israel prime minister’s office has said today that Mr. Netanyahu told Secretary Clinton yesterday that there will be no extension of the moratorium on – in September 26. Can you confirm that and --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I can just – Michel, I can just repeat to you what I just said. There are negotiations going on. There’s going to be a lot of stray voltage that one side or the other conveys. There is a negotiation going on, and what counts is what’s happening inside that room. And we’re not going to speculate here as to what is being discussed. We are addressing all of the core issues, and you’ll hear from George Mitchell tomorrow as to the character of our discussions and what the next steps are.
QUESTION: P.J., just a --
QUESTION: And that will be mid-afternoon?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: That’s what he said.
QUESTION: The media thing will be mid-afternoon, is that what you said? Mid-afternoon, early afternoon with George Mitchell?
MR. CROWLEY: Tomorrow?
MR. CROWLEY: Mid-afternoon.
QUESTION: P.J., just a small thing, more for my TV colleagues than me, is there going to be any access to the trilateral in her outer – in the Secretary’s outer office? That’s actually when they’re sitting down for their direct talks rather than in the Ben Franklin Room, which we all know and love, but is about the size of a football field. So I’m just wondering if there will be any footage or any press access to that so that one can actually see them sitting down to talk.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take – it’s possible we might release some official photos, but I do not anticipate any media access to the seventh floor tomorrow.
QUESTION: Different topic?
QUESTION: How about a different topic?
QUESTION: No, same topic.
MR. CROWLEY: Same topic.
QUESTION: Yeah. Where does Gaza fit into these peace talks?
MR. CROWLEY: In what respect?
QUESTION: Well, will Gaza be discussed? Since you’re analyzing a two-state solution, as it is part of the Palestinian --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, to the extent that the core issues include borders, will the prospective territory of a Palestinian state be discussed as part of these talks? Of course. But during the course of the coming days and weeks, you’ll – we hope to have regular interaction between Israeli and Palestinian officials in ways that we haven’t had in a while. During the course of these meetings, we would expect both issues to be discussed within the context of negotiation, but through these contacts, we’re able to continue to address and resolve current issues to avoid the kind of impediments to progress that we’ve seen in the past.
QUESTION: And --
MR. CROWLEY: So is Gaza and the situation in Gaza, broadly speaking, part of this process? Yes, it is.
QUESTION: How so?
MR. CROWLEY: And we’re gratified that the recent changes in policy have been made, have – we think had an impact on the ground in Gaza. More needs to be done. So --
QUESTION: What changes have been made? What – you said that there have been changes made?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the changes in terms of the flow of goods and material to the people of Gaza. But it is --
QUESTION: Still (inaudible) --
MR. CROWLEY: -- it is tangential to the core final status issues, so it’s indirect. But I am certain that as we increase the contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials, the full range of issues will be discussed, including Gaza.
QUESTION: Has there been contact with Hamas officials?
MR. CROWLEY: As we’ve said many times, and George Mitchell repeated yesterday – I’d refer back to his transcript of the media briefing he did at the White House yesterday. There are Quartet principles that guide who can participate in the – in this pursuit of peace. And anyone who is committed to peace, nonviolence, recognizes Israel, recognizes previous agreements, can have a role to play in this process. Hamas is not a part of this process because they have refused to agree to those principles.
QUESTION: P.J., what --
QUESTION: And my last question about this issue: Mahmoud Abbas has made it very clear that if the moratorium doesn’t extend and does expire, he will probably pull out of these talks. Is there a plan B if that does happen?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s the third effort at this issue. All I’ll say is we are in the negotiations. It’s where we want to be. We’re addressing all of the issues inside the negotiation, and you’ll hear from George Mitchell tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can we change --
QUESTION: P.J., what role Saudi Arabia is playing, direct or indirect, as far as the Middle East talks are concerned?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, start again.
QUESTION: What role Saudi Arabia is playing?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia advanced the Arab Peace Initiative. It underpins this process. We value the role that Saudi Arabia has played. We’ve been consulting with Saudi Arabia along with other countries in the region. President Mubarak and King Abdullah are here today to demonstrate the region’s support for this effort, and we will continue to consult closely with Saudi Arabia as the process moves forward.
QUESTION: Can we change the --
QUESTION: P.J., from what you’ve been speaking of in this briefing, as well as what’s occurring at the White House, basically you’re saying this is really a Rubik’s Cube. To what degree does the Iranians, as well as some of the other rogue elements, enter into this that could sabotage everything? You saw a bit of this perhaps yesterday with the killings near Hebron.
Are you, in any respect, saying to both Syria as well as the Lebanese they have to hold that blue line along the border with Hezbollah, as well as there is a demand, for instance, by the Israelis to say that the Palestinians have to say, flat out, that it is going to be a Jewish state? It is a Rubik’s Cube. How do you gauge these attitudes and the tone with these talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are pleased that the direct negotiations have restarted. It’s something that we’ve been working intensively towards for 18 months. The direct negotiations are the only way to reach an agreement and to resolve the conflict. We are very mindful that –whether countries like Iran or sub-state entities such as Hamas can play a spoiler role. We are gratified that despite yesterday’s violence, the leaders have shown their determination and shown their commitment to continue the process today and tomorrow. We will rely on them to continue to show that kind of commitment and courage and leadership because we anticipate that yesterday’s violence, tragically, will not be the only one that we see.
I think it’ll be important for people in the region to look at the contrast between the vision of Hamas and endless conflict and the vision of leaders such as President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad who are pursuing peace and also building up the institutions necessary for an eventual Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. The two visions of the Middle East are in stark relief today. And we’re gratified that on this side of the equation, we have a committed leader like President Abbas who is willing to resist – to condemn that violence and continue his pursuit – his life’s pursuit of peace in the region.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on or I guess apology toward this group of senior Pakistani military leaders who were kicked off a flight from Dulles to Tampa? They were going to a conference at CENTCOM. Apparently, one of them after a long day of travel said that he hoped it would be his last plane flight. And that apparently set off –
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it’s hard to interpret exactly what happened on board the airplane. It was regrettable. We think that there was a misunderstanding, miscommunication between the Pakistani contingent and the aircrew. It did result in the Pakistani contingent leaving the airplane and I understand they have – they are returning to Pakistan. I believe that the Defense Department will be reaching out to Pakistan to see if we can reschedule these talks, perhaps in Pakistan. So it’s regrettable. Unfortunately, it is the environment that we find ourselves when it comes to air travel these days.
QUESTION: Two things about it: Has anybody apologized to him directly so far?
MR. CROWLEY: We have been in communication with Pakistan and we have expressed our regret that this happened.
QUESTION: And then the second thing was that these types of events tend to play pretty badly back in Pakistan. You’ll recall a member of the parliament who had a similar problem boarding a flight and then came back and made a big hullabaloo about it. What do you plan to do about explaining this back to the –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would simply say that this is not something – all of us are subject to air travel and it’s become a lot less fun than it used to be. But this is something that happens day in and day out to Americans and Pakistanis and the citizens of other countries.
QUESTION: What, they get thrown off planes for misinterpreted remarks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I –
QUESTION: It doesn’t happen every day –
MR. CROWLEY: I think it happened to a diplomat from a country in the Middle East not long ago as well. I mean, these things are happening and they’re just a fact of life and will be as long as air travel remains the primary target of international terrorism. Unfortunately, that is exactly – so the vigilance that crews and security personnel demonstrate are – it’s there because air travel remains a significant target of potential terrorism.
QUESTION: Speaking of travel, are you thinking – how about Cuba? Are we – how soon – do you have anything to tell me about –
MR. CROWLEY: I have nothing to announce on Cuba.
QUESTION: Nothing today?
QUESTION: On Cuba? Can you address reports that you’re considering swapping a Cuban --
QUESTION: Same subject.
QUESTION: This is Cuba.
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on. Hold on. All right.
QUESTION: Same subject, Pakistan.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, hold on. We’ll stay on Cuba for a second.
QUESTION: First of all, Pakistan isn’t the same subject. And second of all, I was halfway through my question –
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, I said we’ll stay on Cuba and then we’ll come –
QUESTION: Can you address reports that the U.S. – that your guys are considering a swap – swapping a Cuban spy who was convicted of conspiracy in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down for Alan Gross?
MR. CROWLEY: I have nothing I can share with you.
QUESTION: Well, there’s a letter that’s been sent to the Secretary by the usual suspects, one might say, on Cuba policy, the --
MR. CROWLEY: I –
QUESTION: -- Diaz-Balarts and --
MR. CROWLEY: I have not heard of such an arrangement.
QUESTION: You can’t –
QUESTION: Have you heard of the letter?
QUESTION: You can’t deny that? I mean, surely you wouldn’t consider swapping somebody who’s been convicted –
MR. CROWLEY: I have – this is the first I’ve heard of it.
QUESTION: When I said same subject, I meant the same Pakistani team subject.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.
QUESTION: Cuba is a different subject. Anyway, coming back to the same subject –
MR. CROWLEY: But the –
QUESTION: -- in the morning –
MR. CROWLEY: Cuba had seized the floor. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: In the morning, Pentagon has denied that they issued any apologies. So do you issue any apology or anything to the Pakistan –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just telling you that we’ve already had conversations. We’re going to have more conversations with Pakistan regarding this incident.
QUESTION: Let me just follow up –
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: No, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
DPB # 145
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