1:38 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. I feel like we have to kind of shake off the cobwebs after August.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. And just came from the eighth floor where the Secretary swore in one of the truly good guys of the Foreign Service, Dan Smith, to be our new ambassador to Athens. And we’re all now conspiring to think of ways in which we can justify travel to Greece sometime during his tenure there.
This evening, the Secretary will host an Iftar to celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan. In addition to the many American Muslim civil society leaders and guests from the diplomatic corps, this year’s Iftar will feature approximately 75 guests who represent the best and most innovative American Muslim leaders under the age of 30. These young American Muslim leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators will come together from all around the country for a special generation change event immediately prior to the Secretary’s Iftar, where they’ll have the opportunity to listen to special speakers and engage in breakout sessions.
And then tomorrow morning, the Secretary will deliver a major speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on the Obama Administration’s vision of American global leadership in the 21st century. This will, in essence, follow up on her first CFR speech of just over a year ago. She will affirm that America has the unique reach, resources, and resolve to mobilize the coalitions needed to solve problems on a global scale. She’ll offer examples from the past year and a half, from sanctions on Iran to reset with Russia to renewed alliances in Europe and Asia, that demonstrate how this model of global leadership is producing results and advancing American interests.
Turning to Guatemala, obviously, we are very, very concerned about the disaster there. Over the weekend, Ambassador McFarland exercised his disaster declaration authority and requested $50,000 from USAID and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance as a U.S. initial response. We have since reprogrammed 4.38 million in Economic Support Funds to assist Guatemala’s recovery efforts. Our Embassy is providing helicopter support for ongoing surveillance and rescue missions, and we’ll continue to look for additional ways to provide support to the people of Guatemala.
QUESTION: Where do those helicopters come from?
MR. CROWLEY: They’re INL helicopters that are already in Guatemala.
Turning to Lesotho, we can confirm the death of Thomas Maresco, a U.S. citizen Peace Corps volunteer in Maseru, Lesotho. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Maresco family. The U.S. Embassy and the Peace Corps are fully engaged with the family and authorities in an ongoing investigation.
And today, we’d like to welcome our counterparts from Bogota. Juan Mesa is the presidential senior advisor for communications to President Santos, and Adriana Vargas is the spokesperson for Casa de Narino, and we welcome them to our eminent briefing room.
QUESTION: Yeah, P.J., ahead of next week’s talks in Sharm and Jerusalem, there was supposed to have been a meeting, I believe yesterday, in Jericho, a preparatory meeting. Do you know if that happened? And if it did, who went and what was discussed? And if anything, what was decided?
MR. CROWLEY: There were preparatory meetings planned for early this week. Whether it was yesterday or today, hard to say. I think David Hale, one of George Mitchell’s deputies, was involved in these meetings – and, again, just to prepare the way for the direct negotiations that will resume next week first in Sharm el-Sheikh and secondly in Jerusalem.
QUESTION: So you don’t know if the –
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll check to see. I mean, I do know that coming out of last week’s meetings there were going to be follow-up sessions led by David Hale in the region this week. I’ll try to find out if it was yesterday or today.
QUESTION: Can you explain what the importance of having half of this next round or third round in Jerusalem?
MR. CROWLEY: It was something that came up during the course of the negotiations here on Thursday, and the parties quickly agreed. The Egyptians, through President Mubarak while here last week, had offered the opportunity to host one meeting. And I think that having a meeting in Jerusalem, to some extent, suggests that as we go through this process there will be times where the parties will meet with the U.S. representatives in the room as we will do next week with Secretary Clinton and George Mitchell in attendance; and there will be times, as there have been in the past, where the leaders will meet between themselves and we will not be present. And in the past, through some of the other iterations that you’ve seen in the history of these activities, those meetings have happened on a regular basis in Jerusalem.
QUESTION: But I thought the meeting in Jerusalem next week was going to be a three-way, correct?
MR. CROWLEY: Correct.
QUESTION: So why does it suggest that meetings in the future will be – will not be three-ways?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we indicated last week, what we’re anticipating is that the leaders will get together on a regular basis, roughly every two weeks. In some cases, there will be three-way meetings, in some cases there’ll be two-way meetings.
QUESTION: And what does the Secretary hope to achieve in next week’s meetings? And does she specifically hope to end that series of meetings with some kind of an agreement that will get the parties beyond the September the 26th expiration of the moratorium?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – the issues inherent in this effort are well known. We expect during the course of this process to begin to – or to continue to discuss all of these issues. I’m not going to forecast what the particular outcome of the sessions next week will be.
QUESTION: She doesn’t hope? I mean, that’s – she’s not going to work on that --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just --
QUESTION: -- or she’s not going to try to get that done next week? I mean, that leaves you eight days afterwards, right?
MR. CROWLEY: I understand. We will continue our discussion on all of the core issues, but I’m not going to predict at this point what the particular outcome of the meetings next week will be. We’ll get to next week, we’ll get to the meetings, and see what progress has been made.
QUESTION: Well, are you saying that she doesn't hope that there’s a resolution to this?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just saying that we look forward to the meetings next week.
QUESTION: Well, fair enough; you look forward to the meetings. But is this going to be another situation where an agreement to meet again on the sidelines of UNGA is going to be the measure of success? Because, to be honest with you, that’s not really – that’s not a hell of a lot.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure which – who will be representing each delegation at UNGA. We established last week that the leaders will meet roughly every two weeks. We’re going to be a part of this next round, just like we were the first round. We will continue our discussions.
As we said last week, we’re going into this process of direct negotiations not with the intent of having one or two sessions and leaving it there. This is going to be an intensive process that carries over weeks and months. We understand there are some hurdles that we have to get past. We’re actively working on those as we speak. And we are satisfied, based on last week’s discussion, that the leaders have come with a seriousness of purpose, a determination to move forward. We are gratified that the meetings last week took place despite the transparent attempts by Hamas to derail them before they got started.
So we look forward to the meetings next week in Sharm and in Jerusalem, and we’ll continue to attack earnestly the issues at the heart of the process.
QUESTION: Right. But presumably, you want to make progress in this meeting, correct – in Sharm and Jerusalem?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was a question about getting progress in a particular area. We’re going to address issues across the board. And I’m, again, just not going to predict what the specific outcome of next week’s meeting will be.
QUESTION: Well, I guess – we’re not – I don’t think we’re looking for a prediction. I mean, we’re looking for what are you hoping to achieve, not a prediction of what you will achieve. But it seems to me that if you’re not – if you’re just going to ignore this looming date of the 26th, which is a --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not ignoring anything. We – as George Mitchell explained last week, we hope over the course of the next year to reach – to complete negotiations on all of the major issues within the process. Our first target is a framework agreement, an understanding on the core issues. We understand what the core issues are. I can recite them to you if you wish.
QUESTION: No, no, that’s okay. In fact, you can stop right there --
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you. We --
QUESTION: -- if you’re still answering my question, because I’m obviously not going to get an answer.
MR. CROWLEY: But if – I’m just saying, in advance of the meeting, I can’t tell you that we’ve got to move to this point, then this point, then this point. We know where we have to go and we’re going – we’re determined to meet as often as we can, either the leaders themselves supported by the United States, until we get to our final destination.
QUESTION: And what will determine when the U.S. is in the room with the other parties? What will determine – how will you decide that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, first of all, ultimately, as we know, the leaders themselves, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, they are the ones who have to make the difficult decisions. It is, in essence, their process. We are determined to help in every way that we can, as are others in the region through the participation last week of President Mubarak and King Abdullah.
There will be times where, as we sense that the parties themselves are making progress, we can stay on the sidelines and provide appropriate support. But there will be times that we anticipate going forward where there will be obstacles that they will confront. And as we’ve said, we will be prepared to offer our advice and bridging proposals on how to overcome these obstacles. But as the leaders themselves pledged, they’ll get together about every two weeks. Sometimes we’ll be in the room, sometimes not.
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: Or sometimes we’ll be in the room at a high level, as will be the case next week, and sometimes more at a working level.
QUESTION: On the travel schedule of Senator Mitchell, now will he accompany Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or is he going to go there independently? And thereafter, will he remain there or go – do shuttle – what is the --
MR. CROWLEY: A fair question. I can’t project past – he will be there with the Secretary next week. It is possible he will precede her to the region. I just don’t know at this point.
QUESTION: P.J., you said that --
QUESTION: What are the expectation – once that you go through the year, suppose that you arrive at – that within the year, as is all hoped for, that you arrive at what needs to be done, how long do you expect and what kind of discussion is there within the Department on how long it will take to implement such resolutions? I mean, can we gauge or account --
MR. CROWLEY: That’s– it’s a fair question. As I said, we hope to complete negotiation on the core issues. It is possible that – well, it’s actually almost certain that even past that core agreement, there will be some specific work that need to be done. This is going to take quite some time to – if we get to an agreement, quite some time to implement. Again, that will be up to the parties to decide. It’s one of the reasons why it’s important to continue to support President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as they build up the institutions of a Palestinian state, so that when that moment comes, you actually have the ability to enact what is agreed upon.
QUESTION: Okay. Just one follow-up question on the settlement issue: I talked to the Palestinian delegations and they are quite adamant that if the settlement activity resumes on the 26th, then they will walk out. What is Plan P – what is your Plan B if that is the case?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s – we are mindful of statements, we’re mindful of the calendar. That’s why we felt it was important to meet next week at a high level.
QUESTION: So (inaudible) P.J., you said before that the – as – repeating what Senator Mitchell said, that you would be willing to get involved and offer bridging proposals when needed. President Abbas has asked for intervention, U.S. intervention on this issue of the settlement freeze. Are you saying the time is not yet right for U.S. intervention on this? You’re wanting to let it run down to the wire, potentially to the 25th or the actual 26th before you come up with or offer a suggestion to get beyond that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we have meetings scheduled next week. We understand that the leaders themselves will have to decide how this process unfolds. We are in this to help support them. We’re looking forward to the meetings next week. There are a wide range of issues to discuss. And some of you will be with us on the trip.
QUESTION: So the time is not yet right for you to get involved to offer a proposal to get over this; is that what you’re saying?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, but I’m also saying that, as Senator Mitchell himself said – maybe it’s a new Mitchell principle – we’re not going to characterize at any particular (inaudible) point what we’re doing other than to say that we’re committed to this process and we’re going to be as helpful as we can to help the leaders continue to make progress on this journey.
QUESTION: That’s not a new Mitchell principle; that’s the old Mitchell --
QUESTION: But it --
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) It’s a very sound Mitchell principle.
QUESTION: Really? And the last time that you kept quiet on such a big deal – on negotiations like this, they were a big success, right? Yeah, I remember Annapolis where there was nothing coming out except for, “Oh, we’re making progress, we’re making progress,” all the time and then --
MR. CROWLEY: Hey, I’m --
QUESTION: -- it turns out there wasn’t any progress at all.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just giving you the details and the process.
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: No you’re not.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) We’re meeting next week.
QUESTION: Can I go for a new subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Please.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. P.J., as we approach 9/11 and also the Eid, and now we have a special session this evening here with the Secretary and also Special Representative for Muslims Ms. Pandith and you have heard the warnings from General Petraeus in Afghanistan, where – how do you characterize the relations between the United States and the Muslims around the globe and especially here in (inaudible) America and – because you see a lot of things are happening because – burning of the Qu’ran – Qu’ran and all those things are going to create so much problems, sir?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, people need to understand that in this country, we have freedom of religion, we have a tradition of religious tolerance, we also have freedom of expression. We believe that these are fundamental principles of U.S. society. We’re very conscious of what has been discussed as potential actions down in Florida at the end of this week. We think that these are provocative acts, they are disrespectful, they’re intolerant, they’re divisive, and we’re conscious that a number of voices have come out and rejected what this pastor and this community have proposed.
And we would like to see more Americans stand up and say that this is inconsistent with our American values. In fact, these actions themselves are un-American. The pastor says that he’s contemplating these actions to combat radicalism. In fact, these actions, if they take place – we hope they don’t – will actually feed radicalism. As General Petraeus mentioned over the weekend, given social media, they can have at least as powerful an impact as the tragic events and photos of Abu Ghraib had.
But at the same time, people around the world need to also understand that America is not represented by one pastor or 50 followers. We are a nation of 300 million people. And the vast majority of Americans are standing up this week and saying that these contemplative actions are inappropriate, they’re abhorrent, and this should not happen.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: Do you reject it? You said a great many people are rejecting it. Do you reject this? Do you just flatly feel that this particular group in Florida should not do this?
MR. CROWLEY: They should not do this. And as General Petraeus said, they potentially put soldiers at risk. For any American who is traveling, any diplomat in posts around the world, these put – these actions, whatever their motivation, potentially put American interest and American lives at risk.
QUESTION: And why is it un-American, which is a word that doesn’t get lobbed around very often in this briefing room? And you point out that there are two principles here; one is sort of freedom of religion and tolerance and another one is freedom of expression, which means that you can burn American flags and so on and not be called un-American. I mean, why is it un-American for them to do this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there – it is one thing to have a right. It’s another thing as to how one exercises that right. This is a divisive potential act of disrespect of one of the world’s great religions. And while we support – and those of us are who are constitutionally charged to defend our freedoms, including freedom of expression, this is an action that has potential serious ramifications. It is a statement of intolerance that we believe is contrary to our – how we – how – our values and how we conduct ourselves day in and day out here in the United States of America.
QUESTION: P.J., Arshad is right. I mean, what – honestly, what could be more American than expressing one’s freedom of speech, freedom to --
MR. CROWLEY: There – we --
QUESTION: -- assemble and freedom to do --
MR. CROWLEY: Absolutely right.
QUESTION: I mean, why is it that --
MR. CROWLEY: But there --
QUESTION: You wouldn’t say burning the American flag is un-American, would you?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it is inconsistent with the values of religious tolerance and religious freedom that are innate to us as Americans. You’ve got a clash of two principles here. There are – in our view, there are far better ways to commemorate 9/11 and the religious bigotry that that event represents than to commit yet another act of what I would consider to be religious radicalism.
QUESTION: Okay. But I guess --
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead, go ahead.
QUESTION: -- I guess the point – again, I’m having a hard time --
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: Excuse me. I’m having a hard time understanding, first of all, why the State Department is getting involved in an issue that relates directly to a Florida church.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, I was asked.
QUESTION: Well, okay. Fair enough. But you made the – but then you made the observation that what they planned to do is un-American. And I --
MR. CROWLEY: I think – there’s – there are a balance --
QUESTION: Are you prepared to say the same thing if someone wants to --
MR. CROWLEY: Look, there are a balance of interests here. But this, in our view, has the potential to inflame public opinion around the world in a way that will jeopardize American lives and American interests. It does not represent our core values as Americans. We hope it does not happen. We hope that between now and Saturday, there’ll be a range of voices across America that make clear to this community that this is not the way for us to commemorate 9/11. In fact, it is consistent with the radicals and bigot – with those bigots who attacked us on 9/11.
QUESTION: Right. But in fact, it is – but wait --
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on – Matt. Matt, others want to ask questions, too.
QUESTION: You’re saying that this may be incitement, but it is still a First Amendment issue. What really – what recourse does the government have to, say, go to the city of Gainesville and say maybe you should not issue a bonfire or whatever it is permit and all these things?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, all we really have here is a bully pulpit. The community is going to do what they do. I mean, the city government has declined to provide a permit for this event. The pastor appears to be unswayed by comments by General Petraeus and others who have expressed concern about the action that is being contemplated. We want to see – we support a vigorous debate in this country, even about issues that have great sensitivity. That said, there is a point where the debate yields to something more significant.
We are hopeful, between now and Saturday, that a range of voices, whether they’re political figures, religious figures, others, can rise and convince this community that there are better ways of commemorating 9/11 than through this action.
QUESTION: But, P.J., one more thing. The Secretary is going to speak out this evening. And second, freedom of expression or freedom of religion doesn’t mean that you put the whole country on fire.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and, Goyal, there is another side to this. That’s true. But if this community goes ahead and – with this proposed event on Saturday, we would hope that the rest of the world will judge us not by the actions of one pastor or 50 followers, but judge us by a tradition that goes back to our founding. We did not indict entire countries or an entire religion over the actions of 9/11, and we would hope that the rest of the world does not indict the United States for the actions of one fringe element in Florida.
QUESTION: P.J., can I ask just one on this? Are you absolutely certain that you want to stick with the word “un-American” to describe this potential action, or do you want maybe walk back from that word?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me define what I meant by this. We have a tremendous tradition of religious tolerance in this country. We believe that the potential act of burning a Qu’ran shows enormous disrespect to one of the world’s great religions. It is contrary to our values. It’s contrary to how civil society has emerged in this country. It is un-American in the sense that it does not represent the views of the vast majority of Americans who are respectful of religions – of the world’s great religions.
So while it may well be within someone’s rights to take this action, we believe and hope that cooler heads will prevail and other ways can be found to promote a dialogue among the world’s greatest religions, which is what we have been trying to do here within this country and within this Department since 9/11.
QUESTION: P.J., I wanted to ask real quick – you touched on it earlier in your remarks that General Petraeus talked about the risk to members of the military abroad. Can you say whether you have similar concerns about whether this poses any threats to Americans tourists, for example?
MR. CROWLEY: I think I encompassed that in my remarks. It does. To – we’ve already seen small-scale demonstrations in various countries overseas where anxiety levels are building because of the publicity surrounding this proposed action. It does put the lives of ordinary Americans at risk, as well as diplomats, as well as soldiers.
QUESTION: P.J., you don’t believe that as far as – because many Americans don’t like, as far as building the mosque at Ground Zero, you think anything to do with that?
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I don’t believe that the proposed events in Florida are related – excuse me – to the debate --
QUESTION: Bless you.
MR. CROWLEY: -- in New York.
QUESTION: P.J., both General Petraeus and yourself, and presumably – and, actually, all federal employees take an oath to uphold the Constitution, to defend the Constitution. And it seems to me that whether someone wants to burn a Qu’ran or a flag or an American flag or the Bible or the Torah or any other symbol of something that we think or that the general society thinks is a good or a great thing – like the flag is a symbol of the country which people routinely say is going to have the greatest example of representative democracy on earth, and yet, when people burn American flags in this country or around the world, we don’t hear this kind of thing saying that that’s un-American. In fact, that’s protected speech.
So I guess what my question is that it seems to me that while it may be against the values of the great majority of Americans for them to do it, you and people in this government, as sworn defenders of the Constitution, have the obligation to defend their right to do it, regardless of how abhorrent you find it.
MR. CROWLEY: And, Matt, you’ve made a good scholarly and legal argument there, which I accept. I mean, I think you have to distinguish between legal rights that we have – and freedom of expression and the First Amendment are, in fact, enshrined in our Constitution as something that we support here and elsewhere every day. What we’re concerned about is there is the right and then there’s how you exercise that right. This is a potential action that has serious implications for U.S. interests around the world. It potentially puts American lives at risk. And when you balance out a right and a responsibility, in our view, we hope that this pastor and this community will find a different way to commemorate 9/11 and express a justified concern about religious radicalism anywhere in the world.
But as Americans, I think this is an act of disrespect to a religious symbol and a great religion that we think is uncharacteristic of our tradition and the religious tolerance that has been an essential part of our society and our history.
QUESTION: On the Iftar dinner tonight, in the original notice that went out, Secretary Clinton was going to speak and deliver live remarks. I’m wondering why she’s now delivering taped remarks. And also, why was the time of the event changed?
QUESTION: That’s two different events.
MR. CROWLEY: Right. No, it’s two different events.
QUESTION: Oh, she --
MR. CROWLEY: She will be delivering some remarks tonight.
QUESTION: Will she discuss this issue in her remarks tonight?
MR. CROWLEY: I expect she will.
QUESTION: To talk about what? The mosque or about the Florida --
MR. CROWLEY: She – I expect that she – between her remarks tonight and her remarks tomorrow at CFR, I would fully expect that she will comment on this issue.
QUESTION: Do you know on how this individual might be held accountable for anything that happens some 7,000 miles away?
MR. CROWLEY: And now that is a matter for local authorities. But our concern here is that the implications that this has in terms of our relations with people in Muslim-majority countries all over the world.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on South Korea representative Wi Sung-lac have a meeting with State Department (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: They did have a good meeting. It was part of our ongoing consultations with our partners in the Six-Party process. Those consultations will continue in the coming days and we’ll evaluate what the appropriate next steps are.
QUESTION: Did he meet with Wu Dawei, Chinese representative Wu Dawei, and Chinese representative and South Korean representative (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we also had a meeting with the Chinese team on the same issue – again, part of our ongoing consultations.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Ambassador Sung Kim is also heading for Seoul today, right? So –
MR. CROWLEY: He is heading for, I believe, a conference in Seoul.
QUESTION: Yeah, but he – he will have meeting with South Korean Government officials, right?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me – I’ll take it a step further, since you asked. Next week, Ambassador Bosworth, Special Envoy Kim, and NSC Asia Director Danny Russel will be traveling to Seoul on September 12 through 14, Tokyo September 14 and 15, and Beijing September 15 and 16, for discussions on North Korea.
QUESTION: So can you tell us U.S. Government’s current effort to make better environment to resume the dialogue with North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t – we will continue our consultations with key parties in this process, but I would suggest, as we have in the past, that it’s North Korea that needs to do what it can to create a better environment for progress.
QUESTION: If I may ask you one more question.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Last week, U.S. Government provided humanitarian aid to North Korea responding to the current flood situation. So after that, has there been any additional request from North Korea for further humanitarian aid?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me just – let me see. I’m not aware of any additional requests, but we are continuing to evaluate and will act upon any further requests.
QUESTION: Former President Jimmy Carter visited China (inaudible). Jimmy Carter visit China. Do you know what purpose?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the Carter Center.
QUESTION: Can you rule out that Ambassadors Bosworth and/or Kim will either travel to North Korea or hold any meetings with North Korean officials during the course of this upcoming trip?
MR. CROWLEY: None are anticipated.
QUESTION: Egyptian presidential hopeful, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, is calling on Egyptians to boycott the November elections because he thinks it’s going to be marred with fraud and he’s threatening with civil disobedience. And many Egyptians believe that President Mubarak is grooming his son to inherit the presidency. What is the U.S. position about this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we want to see free, fair, and impartial elections in Egypt. We do not endorse anyone’s candidacy to be – for the presidency of Egypt. That’s a decision for the Egyptian people.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, on Syria first, the – unfortunately, the IAEA again documented that Syria has not been forthcoming with any explanation to clarify the scope of its clandestine nuclear activities. So it continues to refuse to cooperate with the IAEA as it is required to do.
With respect to Iran, I think it underscores our concerns about ongoing uranium enrichment, the continued construction of a heavy-water research reactor, concerns about its cooperation with the IAEA and access of inspectors to key sites. So once again, this underscores our concerns and the rationale behind UN Security Council 1929. We continue to believe that implementation of 1929 coupled with national steps that the United States and other countries have taken, it is having an impact on the ground in Iran and is gaining the attention of the Iranian leadership.
Now, whether they will make the right decision remains to be seen, but this is – supports our policies and the actions over the past year to put additional pressure on Iran even while we remain open to engagement to answer the questions that the report once again raises.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate any meetings of the so-called Vienna Group at a senior level prior to UNGA?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe that there will be a meeting of the P-5+1 at a senior level at UNGA. Whether there are other meetings prior to then, hard to say.
QUESTION: And do you know –
MR. CROWLEY: Maybe. Maybe not.
QUESTION: Do you know if Under Secretary Burns’s travel to – which includes a stop in Russia this week, another Vienna Group member – will include any such consultations; i.e., will the French become – will the French political director be going there for any kind of a meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: Bill Burns is in Moscow today, will also be traveling to Ukraine, I believe. I wouldn’t be surprised if the subject of Iran comes up. But I’m not forecasting a meeting among the Vienna Group at this point, although we are – continue to seek meetings with Iran, both within the IAEA construct to talk about the research reactor proposal and also to engage the P-5+1. But I can’t report any further progress since last week, in anticipation of Matt’s question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Does the IAEA report indicate that the --
QUESTION: Actually, my next question –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m getting better at channeling –
QUESTION: -- was going to be about Lesotho. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Well, since you asked last week, I thought I would anticipate that one. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you think the IAEA report indicates that sanctions against Iran are not working?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – what the IAEA is documenting, that Iran continues to fail to cooperate with the IAEA as it is required to do. I think separate from that, we do believe that the actions that we’ve taken – 1929 coupled with national steps – is having an impact in Iran. But again, Iran – they choose to defy its own self interest. We’ll have to wait and see.
QUESTION: A totally different topic. Do you have anything to say about this group of American labor unions that are appealing to the Secretary to revoke special visas issued to Chinese laborers to build the Martin Luther King statue? Apparently, they’d like the job. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, visa decisions to anyone traveling to the United States for any reason are normally confidential. As to this particular project, I’ll defer the kinds of questions on who’s overseeing it and who is going to be doing the work to the Martin Luther King Foundation.
QUESTION: Right, but apparently there were some special visas granted in this case just for this project, which falls under your purview.
MR. CROWLEY: That’s true.
QUESTION: I’m curious whether you have received such an appeal, first of all, and then if you’d like to speak about any considerations about it.
MR. CROWLEY: No, I’ll – again, whatever visa applications may or may not have been made stems from a decision by the foundation in terms of its choice of the sculptor to construct the monument. Those are the fundamental questions. I’ll defer to them as to in terms of why they made the selection that they did and who will be doing that work.
QUESTION: But just in general, is that grounds for denying a visa if someone – if an American laborer is able to do the same work that someone who is coming in from the outside can do?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me do some more research on that.
MR. CROWLEY: I think there is an ongoing political process within Japan. Let’s see how that process unfolds first.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Darlene Mathis-Gardner, who is an interior designer who got a contract – a $5 million contract to redesign crystal glassware for State, she has been charged with a felony with conspiracy and fraud in how she got a different government contract. I’m wondering how – if this affects her State Department contract, whether it’s under review, and what’s the status of that contract?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe that contract has expired.
QUESTION: And is it being – what she’s charged with by federal authorities is turning in this information to that –
MR. CROWLEY: That contract ran its course and it’s not been renewed.
QUESTION: But did she turn in any of the same false information to get the contract? Has it been looked at?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know.
QUESTION: P.J., do you have any comment on the report that a Taiwanese firm has shipped missile pads to North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: Do you have any plans to save the Kabul bank in Afghanistan, which is nearly – near collapse and Afghanistan is seeking some help from you?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are paying close attention to what has happened with respect to the Kabul bank. The Department of Treasury did send a quick reaction team to provide some technical support. But there is some significant steps that are being taken by the Government of Afghanistan, in particular the financial ministry and the central bank, to deal with the immediate situation. I think the situation on the ground today was better than it has been in previous days. We are there to provide support as needed, but we do not contemplate employing any U.S. taxpayer funds to rescue the bank.
QUESTION: And secondly --
MR. CROWLEY: And it’s not evident that any additional funding will be necessary.
MR. CROWLEY: They should continue trying.
MR. CROWLEY: They should continue trying.
QUESTION: You said that WikiLeaks threatened the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan, and now, the Qu’ran burning is threatening the same. Are you planning any judicial or legal or law and order to stop it --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we talked about earlier --
QUESTION: -- to stop it?
MR. CROWLEY: -- this is a civil matter. I believe that the local authorities have refused to grant a permit for this event. We don’t have any jurisdiction.
QUESTION: Now, if it’s a civil matter and then some soldiers are killed in Afghanistan, it doesn’t remain a civil matter anymore.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, it goes back to our previous discussion about the wisdom of undertaking this action in the first place.
QUESTION: P.J., North Korea accepted an aid offer from South Korea and released --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry? Yeah.
QUESTION: -- and released a South Korean fishing vessel – fishing boat (inaudible). So do you see that as a positive sign for North Korea relations with North – South Korea and the United States?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s separate those two. South Korea did provide some assistance to North Korea. North Korea has released these fishermen. It is important that North Korea and South Korea have a constructive relationship. But beyond that, I have no comment.
QUESTION: P.J., let me ask you – I believe next week, some of the high-class Indian officials are expected in Washington, but as far as U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement is concerned, is that problem is now solved? Or because of this new bill in the Indian parliament which is not making U.S. businesses happy --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we continue our discussions with the Indian Government on this issue and we note that Indian business leaders are concerned about some specific aspects of that – the law that was just passed by parliament, and we will look to the Indian Government to see what changes can be made.
QUESTION: P.J., back on the Peace Corps worker who died in Lesotho, there’s some suspicious circumstances around that. Why is there no investigation?
MR. CROWLEY: Everything that we understand at this point, it was – the killing was in association with some sort of robbery.
QUESTION: So it was a murder; it wasn’t natural?
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)DPB # 146