1:48 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A few things to touch on before taking your questions:
The Secretary, as you know, left Andrews Air Force Base a few hours ago en route to Honolulu. She, later on today, will meet with Foreign Minister Maehara to discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, deepening our security alliance, expanding our bilateral economic relationship, and our strong mutual commitment to achieving successful outcomes at the upcoming APEC summit. She – the Secretary will also express our commitment to work closely with the Government of Japan and Prime Minister Kan across a broad range of issues facing our two countries.
After the briefing, we’ll release a statement by Secretary Clinton on the passing of former President Nestor Kirchner in Argentina. The Secretary will offer her condolences to the people of Argentina and to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on his death. The president demonstrated his commitment to serving the citizens of Argentina and fostering South American integration. As you know, the President a short time ago also released a statement, and the Secretary will join him in expressing condolences to President Kirchner and their children.
Updating you on the situation in Indonesia, obviously dealing with the dual challenges of the aftermath of the tsunami as well as the volcanic eruption at Mount Merapi, the Embassy has issued a Warden Message, and as far as we can tell at this point, there are no reports of U.S. citizen injuries or fatalities in either the context of the tsunami or the context of the volcano. And we continue to stand by and are ready to support the Indonesian Government in any way possible.
Regarding the situation in Guinea, the United States encourages both presidential candidates to accept the newly proposed election date of October 31st. We urge Guinea’s interim government to immediately take the necessary steps to solidify the state and we ask Guinea’s security forces to continue to refrain from use of excessive force. We denounce all violence and encourage the Guinean people and political leaders to allow the elections to proceed in a peaceful environment.
Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg has arrived in Mexico this morning. He will meet today with Foreign Minister Espinosa, Mexican senators, civil society leaders, and journalists. Tomorrow, he will travel to Monterrey to meet with students at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, the Nuevo Leone Governor de Cruz, law enforcement counterparts, and business leaders. In his visit, he will reinforce U.S.-Mexican cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the Merida Partnership, rule of law, human rights and judicial reform, youth and civil society participation in confronting shared challenges, economic prosperity, and climate change and clean energy. Obviously, Foreign Minister Espinosa is taking a leading role in the preparations for the upcoming meeting in Cancun on climate change.
And finally, before taking your questions, yesterday, there was a question regarding our current funding to Haiti. I thought I would follow up and just explain we have basically two pots of funding regarding Haiti. The United States has already committed more than a billion dollars in support of Haiti since the earthquake just about nine months ago. And that funding has enabled us to both begin to stabilize the current situation and, in fact, respond to the current cholera outbreak.
There is another pot of money – again, just over a billion dollars – that was appropriated in the recent supplemental passed by Congress. In the supplemental, Congress asked for a formal spending plan, which the State Department has submitted. The supplemental also allowed for a comment period following the issuance of the spend plan. We are still addressing questions that Congress has raised. When this comment period ends, and we expect that to happen in the next few days, we will then be in a position to immediately obligate funding – this additional $1 billion in funding – to support Haiti’s rebuilding. And these funds will be programmed to focus on infrastructure including energy, housing, and ports, as well as health, agriculture, and security projects.
QUESTION: On that same topic, so it’s correct to say that no money from that second category has been spent?
MR. CROWLEY: It has not been spent, it has not yet been obligated, but we have the spend plan which includes the types of projects that we will immediately disburse funding to support. So we’re poised to commit that money as soon as we finish the comment period with Congress.
QUESTION: Is that different than what you said yesterday?
MR. CROWLEY: No, but there was a sense of apples and oranges, so I thought I would just clarify that we do – we have already committed more than a billion dollars to Haiti, and that money is – continues to flow and continues to support projects. Many of those projects, as I mentioned yesterday, are being approved through the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission. But there is an additional pot of money pending the satisfaction of the comments provided to us by Congress.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. interested in reviving or renegotiating this uranium swap deal with the Iranians through the P-5+1 group?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, go back just over a year. We did table the Tehran research reactor proposal. We thought it was a confidence-building measure that could provide some momentum to enhance the discussions of our core concerns, which remains the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
We still think the concept has a potential value, so we would be interested in continuing to pursue that with Iran if Iran is interested. At the same time, regarding the TRR, it’s important to note that the proposal would have to be updated reflecting ongoing enrichment activity by Iran over the ensuing year. But this is something that we potentially look ahead to engaging Iran in through the so-called Vienna Group.
But it is important to just note that the TRR does – is not a substitute for the ongoing concerns that we have about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. For that, we need a sustained, serious conversation and where Iran has to convince the international community that it’s abiding by its international commitments. And as we say, through our discovery of Iranian activities, including the existence of the secret Qom facility, we have our doubts as to whether Iran is living up to its obligations.
QUESTION: Would you – on that one, would you see those two sets of talks – TRR and the broader talks – do they have to run in parallel? Or given that you’re saying the TRR proposal could be a confidence-building move, would it make more sense to start that one off first? And is that perhaps what Lady Ashton may be talking to them about?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the first – I mean, obviously, the first thing we’re waiting for is a response from Iran for the proposal put forward by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. She has proposed talks next month, and Iran has yet to respond to that. But if Iran is prepared to sit down and seriously engage, we are prepared to continue to discuss the TRR proposal. But at the same time, we need to have Iran come forward and demonstrate affirmatively that it’s living up to its obligations and its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
QUESTION: One of the newspapers today seemed to be pretty sure that these talks are going to be held on the 16th and 17th of November. Is that --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that is what we have proposed. Iran has made some public indications that it’s interested in discussions, but has yet to formally respond.
QUESTION: Another topic?
MR. CROWLEY: I thought I could get away. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Afghanistan. President Karzai is now saying he’s going to give an extra 90 days to the security firms after the November deadline that he originally set so that they’ll be able to wrap up or smooth the transition. In your view, is that sufficient? Does that resolve the problems that we’re facing there? Or are there discussions still needed about the broader sense of how the security is going to be handled?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think what – first of all, we are encouraged by what President Karzai and his government have advanced today. It provides a process through which we can work with the Afghan Government and the international community to fully implement the Afghan Government’s decree.
So – but I think to understand that there are different categories of security contractors. There’s a category of security contractors that the Afghan Government has determined to be illegal, unlicensed, and the Afghan Government is already working to dissolve those firms. There’s a body of contractors that are guarding diplomatic posts, military posts, and the Afghan Government has made clear that those contractors can continue.
And then there’s a – contractors that are associated with the movement of convoys across Afghanistan, and the Afghan Government is in the process of a transition where those contractors will go from contractors to responsibility of Afghan National Security Forces. There is this remaining category of contractors who are securing development projects, and that will be the core focus of the committee that – it was announced today – that will operate under the ministry of the interior, and they will report back to President Karzai in short order. And then from that point, there will be an orderly process where judgments can be made and a transition, where needed, made again from the use of contractors to the use of Afghan security forces.
So we believe that this is a process that allow – that enables the implementation of the decree to go forward. As I think Ambassador Eikenberry said today in one of his press comments, it brings the kind of predictability to the process that we have encouraged the Afghan Government to put forward.
QUESTION: When the Secretary spoke to President Karzai on Saturday, did she ask for this specific delay?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, what the --
QUESTION: Or suggest it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary, together with President Karzai, they talked about the decree, how to best implement it. And I think we’re gratified that there is now a process that will enable the decree to be fully implemented.
QUESTION: These WikiLeaks reports on torture, the United Nations has called for an investigation. The United States said earlier that it thought that investigation should start with Iraq. Since then, has the United States initiated any kind of investigation?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t answer that question. I can tell you that our policy remains clear. We have obligations and our policy is not to turn over any prisoner in any country where we have concerns about torture. That was our policy five years ago. It’s our policy today. I can’t say at this point whether we feel that an investigation is warranted in this case, but we will continue to pursue and follow our policy and our laws.
MR. CROWLEY: I would probably pose that – I am not aware of any contacts between the United States Government and Caterpillar, but perhaps it’s a question to ask Caterpillar.
QUESTION: Same subject --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, we – the State Department, through commercial diplomacy, encourages economic relationships where our goods can be exported to other countries, including Israel. So I’m highly doubtful that we would have invited Caterpillar to take that step.
QUESTION: Last week with regard to WikiLeaks, the anticipated release which happened on Friday night, before that you said you thought – you said something to the effect that you thought it was likely that some State Department cables would be included in those and it turned out there weren’t any. Are you – do you have any –
MR. CROWLEY: I actually thought I said that I did not think that whatever was released was going to significantly involve State Department products. But –
QUESTION: I took it to mean that it would be similar to the previous release where there was a modest number of diplomatic cables released in July.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: At any rate, are you expecting – do you still have information or inclination – I mean, indications that some diplomatic cables are still in the possession of WikiLeaks that haven’t released?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, let me again state that we decry the release of these documents. They’re classified for a good reason. They do put U.S. lives and U.S. interests at stake as well as the lives and interests of our allies and partners. WikiLeaks should not release any other documents. It has been our presumption that in the cache of documents that were potentially moved from government networks outside of the government control that potentially some of our cables were moved. But that is still our presumption.
QUESTION: P.J., do you have any comment on the remarks by the Chinese Vice Foreign – Vice President Xi Jinping that South Korea initiated the Korean War by invading North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry. Start – South Korea?
QUESTION: Invaded – initiated – started the Korean War by invading North Korea.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) I have to go back and dust off the history books. That doesn’t sound right to me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: P.J., Treasury is blacklisting a few dozen Iranian firms in Europe as being Iranian fronts for illicit trade and that sort of thing, which I think that militates against the State Department trying to get the Iranians to –
MR. CROWLEY: Start it – I missed the first –
QUESTION: The Treasury Department has blacklisted about three dozen so-called Iranian front companies operating in Europe. Wouldn’t that make them less amenable to talk about nuclear issues?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the choice that Iran makes is up to Iran. We believe that Iran should come forward, engage the international community seriously, and answer the questions that we have and the concerns that we have about Iran’s nuclear program. We have said all along that we are open to engagement, but at the same time, we’re going to take steps to put pressure on Iran. And we believe that the sanctions and – both the international sanctions and the national steps that we have taken and other countries have taken are, in fact, getting Iran’s attention. Whether it convinces Iran to take the – what we think are the steps that are in Iran’s long-term interests, we’ll wait and see.
QUESTION: Amnesty International and Russia and the Vatican, they are asking Iraq not to implement the court order to execute the former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and two other officials from the era of Saddam Hussein. What is the U.S. position on this issue?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, our position is that Tariq Aziz was convicted through a legal process that is consistent with the Iraqi constitution. The final disposition of his case is up to Iraq.
MR. CROWLEY: Scott Gration is still en route to Khartoum. He will join South African – former South African President Thabo Mbeki in meetings with the parties tomorrow. They will continue to work with the parties to advance the referenda process. They will also join the parties in participating in the IGAD Summit in Addis Ababa on October 30. So we continue – we will continue to work with the parties on full implementation of the CPA and the meetings will resume tomorrow.
QUESTION: So that meeting – just so I’m clear, that meeting is sort of an official continuation of the forum – the nine days that we had before. So they’re starting tomorrow.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay, does the State Department have any reaction to the report by the panel of experts at the UN about sanctions-busting in Darfur particularly – that Khartoum is –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the report, as I understand it, is not final. But there is a process for the release of that report through the panel of experts and we support that process.
QUESTION: Have you seen the – I mean, have you seen the results so far, because they especially point the finger at China for not enforcing the ban?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there’s probably this technical aspect. Are we familiar with what’s in the current version of the report? We are. Is it actually final? It’s not until it’s formally released.
QUESTION: Do you have concerns that China isn’t enforcing the arms sanctions?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we think that all countries should be responsible stakeholders in pursuing peace in Sudan.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)
DPB # 176