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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 4, 2010


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Congratulations to European Side in the Ryder Cup
    • Under Secretary Bill Burns Travel to Yemen, Iraq and Jordan
    • U.S. Congratulates Bosnia and Herzegovina on General Elections
    • Nominations of Ambassadors Ricciardone and Ford
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Special Envoy Mitchell Travel to Qatar, Egypt and Jordan
    • Secretary Clinton's Conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu
    • Committed to a Two-state Outcome / Intensive Dialogue / Resolving Core Issues / Encouraging other States to Support the Process
  • EUROPE
    • Travel Alert / Multiple Streams of Threat Information / Staying Cautious and Vigilant / Cumulative Analysis / Other Country's Assessments
  • PAKISTAN
    • Supply Lines into Afghanistan / Multiple Routes
    • U.S.-Pakistan Relationship / War on Terror / Cooperation / Strategic Dialogue / Strengthening Afghan Civilian Institutions
  • VENEZUELA
    • Ambassador to Caracas / Engaging the Government
  • SUDAN
    • Talks in Addis Ababa / Reaching an Agreement / Credible Referenda / Abyei
  • SYRIA
    • Sovereignty of the Lebanese State / Special Tribunal
  • LEBANON
    • Rise in Tensions / Secretary Clinton's Meeting with President Sulayman
  • THAILAND
    • Viktor Bout Case / Legal Process


TRANSCRIPT:

1:22 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Since we’re on a – we’re starting off on a sports theme, as the State Department’s self-appointed ambassador-at-large for golf, I suppose I should start by congratulating the European side for a spirited, hard-fought victory in the Ryder Cup. As a golfer, all you want is for the match to go down to the next-to-the-last hole, final match of the series, and it can’t get more exciting than that.

QUESTION: You’re not going to protest their victory?

MR. CROWLEY: Huh?

QUESTION: You’re not going to protest their --

MR. CROWLEY: They won, fair and square. We’ll see in two years from now in – at Medinah.

Anyway, switching to the Middle East, Under Secretary of State Bill Burns is traveling this week in Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan. In Yemen, he will consult with government officials and political party leaders on ways to enhance regional security and promote development in Yemen. In Iraq, he will continue to encourage the political factions in Iraq to form an inclusive and representative government, as well as review progress in the transition to a civilian-led partnership in Iraq. And in Jordan, he’ll discuss a range of regional and bilateral issues, including Middle East peace with Jordan’s King Abdullah. He’ll return to Washington on Friday.

QUESTION: Do you know where he is right now?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe he has arrived in Yemen.

QUESTION: And there are no plans for him to go to Syria?

MR. CROWLEY: No plans for him to go to Syria.

Shifting to Europe, the United States congratulates Bosnia and Herzegovina on its election – general elections yesterday. We urge the countries’ leaders to find common ground and support of a better future for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We look forward to the formation of a government which is committed to tackling the outstanding constitutional and other issues needed to place the country on a firm path to Euro-Atlantic integration.

And with that --

QUESTION: Going back just to the Middle East --

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I understand Mitchell is back and he’s finished?

MR. CROWLEY: He is.

QUESTION: When did he get back? Who else did he see outside of the two main parties and where do things stand?

MR. CROWLEY: As we had mentioned last week, he made stops in Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan. He was in touch with the parties, had multiple meetings late last week. I should add the Secretary herself had a conversation yesterday afternoon with Prime Minister Netanyahu – actually yesterday morning. We – as George said in one of his statements over the weekend, we’re committed to the two-state outcome and establishment of a Palestinian state, and we continue to encourage the parties and consult with the parties on a path forward. We recognize that this is difficult. We’re facing an obstacle that immediately confronts us. We know there’ll be others as we move through this. But we’ll maintain our intensive dialogue with the parties in the coming days.

QUESTION: Okay. One of the things in these plethora of reports that have come out about the alleged package of incentives or inducements aimed at getting Israel to extend or reinstate the moratorium is that the U.S. would block any UN action against – UN Security Council action against a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood. Now without saying whether or not that’s part of the package, can you tell me, or can someone look into it and find out when the last time the United States didn’t block any UN Security Council action that was critical of Israel?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure how to answer that question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Huh? Well, I don’t expect you really to know it off the top of your head. But the question is: When was the last time the U.S. did not veto or otherwise stop a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, we pursue our interests in the region and we do so within various fora. The United States has policies. Israel has its own policies.

QUESTION: I’m really looking for a date.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. But I challenge the assumption that --

QUESTION: But there’s no assumption. I just want to know when --

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no. I --

QUESTION: -- the last time it was that you stopped something that was critical of Israel.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s – I’m not sure that that’s a question that we --

QUESTION: Or the last time you didn’t’ stop --

MR. CROWLEY: -- that can possibly be answered.

QUESTION: It’s okay. Can I follow up on this, actually, because the rest is (inaudible)? Do you think that supporting a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood would be equivalent to criticizing Israel or opposing Israel?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. I would say that keying off the key word “unilateral,” we are committed to a negotiating process that results in a Palestinian state. We’ve said to both parties that unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of negotiations are inappropriate, whether that’s universal declarations on one side or the construction on the other side that changes facts on the ground. That’s why we continue to support direct negotiations because that’s the only way that you resolve the core issues, reach an agreement that will yield security that everyone deserves, and statehood for the Palestinian people, and integration of Israel and acceptance of Israel within the region.

QUESTION: Sometimes we come to a point that two states are ready and they are ready to shake hands, like recently at the White House under President Obama, and then the next day, then we see that they are going back again 50 years. So that means somebody, one of the two or both, are not listening to the United States?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – all of the – the Palestinians, the Israelis, the United States, we will follow our interests. We think it’s in everybody’s interest to pursue the kind of agreement through this – the negotiating process that we have helped to put forward. We – part of the challenge, Goyal, is that it’s difficult for the parties to overcome decades of history and conflict. That’s one of the challenges that we face. Can we get them to look forward rather than looking backward? But that is the challenge that we confront.

We knew going in this was going to be difficult. We knew going in that we were going to confront obstacles. We knew that both sides confronted difficult political situations. But one of the reasons George was in the region last week was not only to confer directly with the parties, but continue to encourage other states, other leaders to support this process and help the parties find a way through this difficult period.

QUESTION: So many countries have become enemies of this – because of this one problem which has been going on, you said, for decades. So what will it take now once and forever, really, the killings and murders and all the enmity will come to an end?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll tell you what. Goyal, if you got any ideas, let us know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you. I will do that. I will do that. Thank you.

QUESTION: In the Secretary’s conversation with the Prime Minister Netanyahu, was there discussion of the two-month extension of the moratorium? Was there progress made towards resolving this issue?

MR. CROWLEY: I can only say that they discussed ideas on a path forward. Beyond that, I’m not going to get into specifics.

QUESTION: How was the conversation, just the --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, they know each other very well. It was a constructive conversation.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this burning, the arson at the mosque?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of it.

QUESTION: The West Bank.

QUESTION: The West Bank.

MR. CROWLEY: Not aware of it. I’ll see what we find out.

QUESTION: Jewish settlers burned a mosque, including a couple of Qu’rans, I believe, and defaced the mosque with graffiti in Hebrew.

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, those would be steps that we would – we decry.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a little more about the Travel Alert that you issued over the weekend?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: I know there was a long conference call, but I’m curious. What do you – I mean, what is the real purpose of the Travel Alert? Because obviously, you’re not telling people not to go to Europe. It seems a little bit confusing. I mean, is it trying to cover all bases? Should something happen, then at least you would have sent a Travel Alert? Or is it about keeping – making sure people stay vigilant? Because that’s what has, in the past, helped stop plots from going ahead. I mean, it is a little bit confusing. And another question – I don’t know whether you have the answer off the top of your head, but --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let – can we stop there for a second? It is providing people information and perspective that will inform the actions that we take. Kim, you’re right; we are saying to American citizens, continue with your travel plans if they include Europe, but be cautious and be aware that we are following multiple streams of threat information. And we felt, having tracked intelligence over a lengthy period of time, it was appropriate to issue this alert at this moment.

And what we have said to our citizens is, broadly speaking, being echoed by other countries who are just simply making sure that our citizens are cautious and vigilant and do whatever is appropriate to guarantee their safety as they travel.

QUESTION: But doesn’t that risk making people sort of panic?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think so at all. We issue Travel Alerts all the time. We issued a Travel Alert a couple of weeks ago when we were fearful that there would be actions in this country that might put Americans in harm’s way if populations demonstrated against what they saw in the United States. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed in that episode, but again, we weren’t telling people to stay home; we were telling people, as you travel, just be cautious because we are aware that there are people who are actively plotting against the United States and our allies and our interests.

QUESTION: So just --

QUESTION: So don’t you think that there would be a chilling effect on people’s travel when you put out an advisory like that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but I think we’ve put this in perspective. I mean, as many of you reported over the weekend, we have a gradation of Travel Alerts. This was one where we specifically have said continue with your travel plans, but just be cautious because we are aware of active plots against the United States, American citizens, and other allies around the world.

QUESTION: Was there a reason why you released that over the weekend? I mean, did you want it not to be as played out? I mean, it kind of seemed to slip out over the weekend. I mean --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, it did. (Laughter.) No, it was a process, and we had been looking at this question for some time. I think, as Pat Kennedy said yesterday, it wasn’t necessarily that we had new information on Saturday that warranted the alert that we provided yesterday. It was the cumulative analysis over a lengthy period of time, but as we considered it, we thought it was the right thing to do at this time.

QUESTION: Was there any debate about whether you should perhaps send out a Travel Warning, or was it always going to be a Travel Alert? And what are the legal differences between the two if it is a warning? Do you know whether that means that people who have travel plans to Europe can allow – can ask travel agencies to refund them if they decide to cancel their travel plans?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, a warning is a more severe kind of notice, which I believe more actively encourages people to – not to travel. I can’t speak to the potential legal ramifications of that, but --

QUESTION: But did you consider it a warning?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Were you considering a warning or was it always going to be --

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. The particular notice that was being reviewed over the past few days was an alert.

QUESTION: On the same rough question, P.J., can you tell us what kind of pushback you had, if any, from various European countries not to be specific in naming it as opposed to just saying, “Be cautious traveling in Europe?”

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I don’t think we’ve had – I think that most countries and their representatives have agreed with or echoed our Travel Alert based on their own assessment of the ongoing threat.

QUESTION: Now, UK also has followed the United States as far as alert is concerned, and this terrorism threat or warning or whatever has spread now all over Europe. So this tells you or all of us that there is a problem of terrorism and homegrown terrorism; they go to Pakistan and they got training there, and then this – go around the globe. Now Pakistan has said today that at least five Germans are being among those killed in Pakistan who came from Germany to get training in Pakistan.

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I just can’t answer that question without getting into intelligence information.

QUESTION: P.J., (inaudible) on Pakistan?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: It was actually paid.

MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on. Come --

QUESTION: On the Travel Alert, just one clarification. Why weren’t there any countries specifically named? Because some of the indications did actually name some countries.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in our case, we believe we have credible information that justified the alert, but it is not specific at this point.

QUESTION: But why? You mean the information is not specific enough to --

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: -- name individual countries?

QUESTION: Our report says that eight German citizens were killed in Pakistan by a drone attack. Do you – have you heard anything from the German Government about the apparent killing of eight of their citizens?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Sorry?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what contacts the State Department has had with Pakistani officials in the effort to open up the supply lines to Afghanistan that the Pakistani Government closed late last week?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, just to clarify, I’m only aware of one particular gate that remains closed. We do have multiple routes into Afghanistan. The flow of materiel to – through Pakistan to Afghanistan continues, but this is an issue that we continue to discuss with Pakistan.

QUESTION: Are there any high-level phone calls or meetings related to that issue that you can --

MR. CROWLEY: I think one I know where this was discussed was today, a meeting between the NATO Secretary General and Foreign Minister Qureshi. But I’ll defer to NATO to read out that meeting.

QUESTION: Nothing involving Secretary Clinton and Qureshi, for example?

MR. CROWLEY: Not in the last few days, no.

QUESTION: Is that because you don’t think that it rises to that kind of a serious enough level to have that kind of high-level involvement?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s – I mean, I can’t speak to the reasons why that particular route is currently not available, but it has, last time I checked, not interfered with our ability to resupply our forces in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Well, overall, and very briefly, I would ask can you just – what is the status of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship in terms of the alliance in the war on terrorism?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to work very closely together to combat a shared threat that threatens our interests but also threatens Pakistan directly.

QUESTION: And you don’t see any indication – any recent indications that the government – that the Pakistani Government’s commitment to that is waning?

MR. CROWLEY: It – well, we understand that Pakistan has resources, military resources that have been directed towards the national response to the flood. That may have had some impact on the ability of Pakistan to conduct its own operations within its borders. Again, I’ll defer to Pakistan to talk about how it’s addressing the situation.

We are quite satisfied with the level of cooperation and coordination that we have with Pakistan. We’ve had many, many direct, high-level conversations. We’ve seen a shift in Pakistan’s thinking in recent months. There’s been a great deal of activity over the past year where Pakistan has recognized the threat that these extremists pose to its own security. This will be a subject that we talk to Pakistan about later this month when we have the next round of our Strategic Dialogue.

That said, we have encouraged Pakistan to continue – it’s focus on extremists within its own territory. It’s important to Pakistan. It’s important to the region. It’s also important to the United States.

QUESTION: So you’re quite satisfied, notwithstanding the closure of that one supply route?

MR. CROWLEY: Again --

QUESTION: I mean, how can you be satisfied with that? They’re your ally, it’s a supply route, it’s the largest theater of – it’s a supply route to the largest theater of operations for the U.S. military in the world now. How can you be quite satisfied?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the – as I just said, Arshad, I’m not aware that the closure of this one gate has had any material effect on our ability to resupply our forces. It hasn’t been a problem.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how long it’s going to last – the closure?

MR. CROWLEY: That is something that we are talking to Pakistan about.

QUESTION: Do you have indications it will open soon? Are they giving you assurances that --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that’s a better question to ask Pakistan.

QUESTION: Is the State Department concerned by reports that elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence community are seeking a change in Pakistan’s civilian government with aid from elements of Pakistan’s judiciary?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to support civilian government in Pakistan, and much of our effort is focused on helping to strengthen Afghan civilian institutions.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, Pakistan civilian institutions.

QUESTION: Just to follow both, the – one supply line, one this – as far as corruption. One, most Pakistanis are not happy now with the civilian current government because of the corruption as far as flood is concerned, one. And second, as far as supply line is concerned, (inaudible) Hamid Gul (inaudible), the ISI chief, he told in an interview that he is the one who suggested the military government to close the supply line until U.S. delivers to Pakistan Dr. Afia Siddiqui, who was sentenced to 86 years, that she was brought to New York – to the U.S. from Afghanistan.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I would – I’ve heard that – a link between those two. On the –

QUESTION: And I’m sorry to interrupt you. And he said that she will be released within a week.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s a matter for the Department of Justice. As to your first point, Goyal, I think it is fair to say that the Pakistani people want to see more effective government that delivers more services and meets the needs of the Pakistani people. That’s one of the reasons why we are committing so much effort and resource to help build the capacity of the Pakistani Government. And this is a central aspect of our partnership.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. CROWLEY: Please.

QUESTION: Venezuela. In view of Chavez’s latest provocation about how the U.S. is behind the uprising in Ecuador, are we sure we want to still send –

MR. CROWLEY: Which is a baseless charge.

QUESTION: Absolutely. Are we still sure we want to send an ambassador there or –

MR. CROWLEY: We are planning to send an ambassador to Caracas because it is in our interest to do so. It is how we interact with governments on a day-to-day basis, governments with which we share insights and values and governments where we have profound differences. We have profound differences with the Chavez government, but we are willing to engage that government just as we are others around the world.

QUESTION: Even though he’s made quite clear that he doesn’t want Palmer and has taken those steps?

MR. CROWLEY: The Venezuelan Government has made its views on our nominee clear, but he remains our nominee.

QUESTION: Regarding ambassadors, the Senate has adjourned without confirming the ambassadors to Syria and Turkey. Could you talk about the consequence of not having these ambassadors in place at least until the election, perhaps much, much longer?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we want to see the nominations of Ambassador Ricciardone and Ambassador Ford go forward and we continue in consultation with the Senate on those nominations. It does have an impact. These are vitally important countries to the future of the region. They are countries that we need that kind of day-to-day interaction with, and we’re hopeful that when the Senate reconvenes after the election that their nominations will go forward.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the Abyei talks in Addis?

MR. CROWLEY: The talks have started. Special Envoy Scott Gration and Ambassador Princeton Lyman are there. We’ve had very, very direct intense discussions with the parties. We’re satisfied that they have come prepared to engage. These are, I understand, very direct and spirited discussions underway, and we hope that through these discussions in the coming days we can reach an agreement that allows the referendum in Abyei to go forward.

QUESTION: Is there a time frame for these talks? How long are they supposed to last? And secondly, Vice President Taha is saying that if they don’t make – if they don’t get an agreement, then the Abyei vote can’t go forward. What’s the U.S. position on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we want to see an agreement. We did some foundational work on the margins of the UN General Assembly. We made it clear to Khartoum and to Juba that the team should come with the proper authorities to reach an agreement. We’re hopeful that agreement can be reached. We understand these are difficult issues. We are working through them. But I think the talks are slated to go on for a couple more days.

QUESTION: But do you agree that that agreement has to be in place for the vote to take place?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that in order to get to a credible – to credible referenda in January, there’s work that has to be done, including work on Abyei. I’m not going to stand here and say one or the other. We want – we’re working from forward backward. We want to see a credible referendum in – referenda in January. And working through border issues, including Abyei, is critically important. I’m not going to make any pronouncements about whether this has to happen in order to get that. We’re working with the parties and we hope to reach an agreement on Abyei. That certainly would be the preferred course.

QUESTION: P.J., on Lebanon and Syria, Syria has ordered the arrest of 33 people over false testimony given in the probe into the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Among them, Detlev Mehlis was the chief investigator and other Lebanese officials. How do you view this step?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to believe that Syria and other countries should respect the sovereignty of the Lebanese state. There is a special tribunal for Lebanon that continues to do its work, and we believe that through the tribunal, it’s the best path to end the era of impunity surrounding political assassinations.

QUESTION: Do you still back the international tribunal?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A teen blogger, 19-year-old Tal al-Mallohi, is apparently held in a Syrian prison. She’s accused of spying on behalf of the United States, and do you have anything to say on this case?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that case. I’ll take the question.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CROWLEY: Samir.

QUESTION: The situation in Lebanon is on the verge of a huge crisis and the reports from Lebanon they’re saying that Hezbollah may take over the government to pressure the prime minister to renounce their international tribunal. What the U.S. can do to help stability in Lebanon?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are focused on Lebanon. We understand that there’s been a rise in tensions there recently and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve had senior officials there on a regular basis. The Secretary met with President Sulayman on the margins of the UN General Assembly. We understand what – the challenge that Lebanon faces. We are committed to do everything possible to support Lebanon’s sovereignty, and that’s what we’re doing.

QUESTION: Have you given any thought already to what would your reaction be if Lebanon decided not to fund the tribunal anymore, to withdraw its funding?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s a key word, “if,” in there. We continue to support the tribunal.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Brazil. Is the U.S. concerned about Brazil’s actions last week where passports from at least two U.S. federal marshals were taken after they detained a disruptive passenger on a Houston to Rio flight?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that case. I’ll see what we know about it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we move further (inaudible)? Do you have any reaction to the latest Thai court ruling in the Viktor Bout case, which seems to suggest that the Justice Department really didn’t – the Justice Department wasn’t – didn’t do a very good job when it sent the second extradition request to the court?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s a legal process that continues to unfold in Thailand, and we continue to look forward to the early transport of Mr. Bout to the United States.

QUESTION: Do you have more details about State Secretary trip to the Balkans next week?

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, let’s see if we can’t get a formal announcement of that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:51 p.m.)

DPB # 160

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