1:42 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of things to touch on before taking your questions. The Secretary has finished her day in Malaysia. She had a conversation with Prime Minister Najib who is, as you may know, hospitalized. They talked about Malaysia’s support to Afghanistan with medical deployment and police training, and talked about expanding education cooperation, perhaps into university-to-university relations and other cooperation at the secondary school level. And then she also met with Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin and Foreign Minister Anifah.
As you heard in her remarks, she sort of endorsed Prime Minister Najib’s call during the United Nations General Assembly to promote religious moderation around the world. And with the deputy prime minister she participated in the signing of three agreements regarding collaboration on research and development of new technologies; partnership between Malaysia and Johns Hopkins University to build a new medical school; and the sale of 50 Pratt & Whitney engines to Malaysia Airlines which will create jobs in both of our countries. And this evening our time tomorrow morning in the region, she will depart Malaysia for a stop in Papua New Guinea on the way – on her way to New Zealand.
Turning to Kyrgyzstan, the United States congratulates the people and Government of Kyrgyzstan on the official announcement of the results of the October 10 parliamentary elections. The voters of Kyrgyzstan demonstrated by their broad and orderly participation in this historic election that they are committed to selecting their government through peaceful democratic means. We appreciate that the thorough review of the last few weeks sought to protect the democratic rights of all voters, and we look forward to working with the new parliament and with the government that shall be formed in the coming weeks.
In Sudan, Special Envoy Scott Gration, he’s either still on his way back to Khartoum from Juba or has actually arrived back in Khartoum. Today, he met with Sudanese First Vice President Salva Kiir and the SPLM negotiating team. We expect that he’ll have follow-on meetings with Sudanese officials and international partners tomorrow in Khartoum. On Friday, he will travel to Addis Ababa for the AU-UN Consultative Forum that regards Darfur, and then the IGAD Summit.
Regarding Darfur, the United States is deeply concerned by the reported arrest of several human rights activists and the closure of the Darfuri radio station’s offices in Khartoum. Radio Dabanga is a very important source of information, real-time information in Darfur. Special Envoy Gration will express these concerns directly with senior Sudanese officials during his meetings tomorrow.
Regarding Haiti, you saw that a short time ago we put out a Travel Alert as Haiti braces for the impact of Tropical Storm Tomas or Hurricane Tomas, depends on its strength. We expect that it will begin to have an effect on Haiti on Thursday. But we continue to monitor the storm’s expected path. We now have 20 DART team members in Haiti. We’re working with the Haitian Government and others to prepare the ground for the storm, mitigating potential damage through canal clearing and drainage, channel preparation, and providing information to the Haitian people regarding shelter and their necessity to seek safer shelter in community centers, churches, and with relatives living in sound houses.
And as you heard yesterday from SOUTHCOM, the United States has positioned the USS Iwo Jima with helicopters and landing craft, it’s hovering near Puerto Rico and has 1,600 personnel on board, including medical, engineering, aviation, and logistics experts, but they will be standing by depending on what happens in the coming days.
And finally, before taking your questions, we, of course, have a number of baseball fans here at the State Department and we congratulate the San Francisco Giants for winning the World Series. My son Chris happens to be a San Francisco college student and has been caught up in the push for San Francisco’s first championship since they moved there in 1955. But more germane to the State Department, we congratulate Edgar Renteria on hitting the decisive home run and earning the Most Valuable Player award. He is, of course, the son of Colombia and in particular, Barranquilla, where he was born. And we’re sure that the Colombian people are proud of his accomplishment. Of course, he is a former member of the Boston Red Sox, so – but we certainly congratulate the Giants and Edgar Renteria for a magnificent series.
QUESTION: P.J., any clarity today on whether Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting with the Secretary when he’s in the U.S. next week?
MR. CROWLEY: Nothing more. I think you heard the Secretary in the Q&A with the – and Malaysian Foreign Minister say that it’s something that they’re still trying to see – assess our schedules.
QUESTION: About Mitchell –
MR. CROWLEY: He remains in New York. Nothing on --
QUESTION: Netanyahu is going to be in New York.
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Is that – Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to be in New York for about three days. Presumably, then he’ll have time to --
MR. CROWLEY: He’s going to go to New Orleans, first.
QUESTION: Then he’s going to go to New York.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What we’re hearing is at least for a couple of days.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. And we’ll let you know as we get closer to – I mean, I am confident that we will have contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu while he’s here (inaudible) whether the Secretary is back in time and their schedules can be aligned so they can meet. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.
QUESTION: What about – the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is in town. Are there any plans to meet with him?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you going to be more specific?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.
QUESTION: Just a clarification on Haiti. The 20 members of the DART team that are down there, were they specifically sent for hurricane preparation or were they already in the country?
MR. CROWLEY: Some of them – we sent nine additional. I think there were some already on the ground. We have 20 as we stand here right now.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know when were the recent folks sent? Do you have that?
MR. CROWLEY: Yesterday.
QUESTION: Yesterday, okay.
MR. CROWLEY: On India?
QUESTION: One --
MR. CROWLEY: Preparations continue for the President’s trip to India.
QUESTION: That’s right. One question into two: One, you just had here people-to-people conference at the State Department where you had various Indian American community and all that.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: One, if this is the new trend or new partnership between India and the United States as far as dealing with India people-to-people? And second, Secretary Clinton is the highest diplomat, top diplomat, and also top advisor on foreign policy to President Obama. What she’s advising on since she’s not on the trip with him as far as U.S.-India relations and foreign policy is concerned?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think one – Goyal, one of the things that has helped to propel our relationship with India over the past few years is, in fact, the very active disapora that we have in this country. And we did take the opportunity to inform Indian Americans about our goals for the upcoming trip. That’s the origins of the meeting late last week.
As you know, in preparation for presidential travel, the State Department does a lot of the spadework in building that agenda and helping the President set appropriate goals for the travel. So over the past year and a half, the Secretary has traveled to India. Under Secretary Bill Burns, Under Secretary Bob Hormats, Assistant Secretary Bob Blake – and I’m probably leaving somebody out – all and others across the government have made a number of trips to India to set the stage for what we hope to be and expect to be a very successful trip by the President.
QUESTION: Do we see anything new coming out of this visit since this is the first visit of the President?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I am sure there will be something new and I’m sure I’ll defer to the White House to announce that as the (inaudible) trip.
QUESTION: Is there something – some agreements are going to be signed like solar power?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Goyal, at this stage, really, we’ll defer to the White House. And they’ve had a series of briefings, as you know – you’ve been a part of them – in preparation for this.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: President Medvedev plans to visit a few more islands in the Northern Territories. Do you have a reaction to that?
MR. CROWLEY: Nothing beyond what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: Syria --
QUESTION: Is there any update? You took a question yesterday about how Article 5 applies to the Northern Territories. I wonder if --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, I did. The short answer is it does not apply.
QUESTION: Is there a long answer?
QUESTION: Is there a long answer?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) I mean, just – the United States Government supports Japan and recognizes Japanese sovereignty over the Northern Territories. I can give you a dramatic reading of Article 5 of the security treaty. But the short answer is since it’s not currently under Japanese administration, it would not apply.
QUESTION: Syria? P.J., Jeffrey Feltman in The Washington Post today says that we know that Syria basically – to paraphrase, we know that Syria has an interest in gaining back its territory, but that – and it knows that the United States is important to that issue, but --
MR. CROWLEY: The United States is --
QUESTION: Is very important --
MR. CROWLEY: Important, yeah.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t see that as an either-or proposition. I mean, there are a number of interests here. We are in search of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and so that has an Israeli-Palestinian context, and Israeli-Syrian context, and an Israeli-Lebanon context. We would like to see progress and success on each of those tracks, so we’re not going to play one off against the other. We will continue to support Lebanese sovereignty. We will continue to seek better relations with Syria.
But obviously, as we’ve made clear, Syria’s actions in Lebanon, its support for groups like Hezbollah, and – it will have an impact in terms of the potential in our – in the context of our bilateral relationship. So if Syria desires better relations with the United States, it – we hope that it will be a more constructive act around the region.
QUESTION: But the United States support of peace process between Syria and Israel is not contingent on how they behave in Lebanon, is it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the pursuit of success on that track is a national interest. We will continue to seek ways to pursue comprehensive peace. But at the same time, we will not seek comprehensive peace in the Syrian-Israeli track at the expense of Lebanon. We have multiple interests here; we’re going to pursue all of them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Jill.
QUESTION: P.J., obviously, today is Election Day. And in this election, there has been a lot of criticism of China. Some people are calling it China-bashing. Do you agree with that characterization and is the State Department --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure we’ll do election analysis from --
QUESTION: No, no, but this is an international issue, China becoming an issue in advertising, even, for this campaign. Do you – or is the State Department concerned at all about that level of criticism that has risen in this election?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we have said many times, Jill, China is a vitally important relationship with the United States. It is a very complex relationship with the United States. Midterm elections are about domestic issues. Domestic issues, including the economy, have an international context. If we are going to solve the challenge of the global recession, we will need action by the United States and we’ll need action by our partners within the G-20, and that would include China.
So it’s not surprising that in election season, people would point out the importance of China in a variety of dimensions in resolving issues that are of vital concern to the American people. The economy is clearly of paramount importance and paramount concern to American voters today. We have had substantial and sustained dialogue with China on economic matters. The President will be departing later this week on a trip that will include a stop in Korea for the G-20, and he will pursue our national interests and our economic interests. And we hope that, to a significant extent, those will be shared by our partners within the G-20.
QUESTION: Do you have anything – did you get any clarification either from the Swiss or through other channels about the delay on the hiker trial in Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: We have not. We have asked the Swiss to see what they can find out, and as far as I know, we have not been officially notified nor has the lawyer for the hikers been officially notified of the delay yet.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any ongoing efforts by the Omanis around this issue or just --
MR. CROWLEY: Nothing I can point to specifically, but we continue to make clear that we would like to see the hikers released.
MR. CROWLEY: You can ask the question.
QUESTION: Do you expect the election results to accelerate the talks, (inaudible) it, or hold it back – the outcome of the elections?
MR. CROWLEY: The talks in the Middle East?
QUESTION: How do you expect the outcome of the elections to impact the (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t necessarily – well, first of all, we don’t know – Americans are voting right now, so we don’t know what the results will be. Democratic and Republican administrations supported by Congress under Democratic or Republican leadership have all supported our pursuit for comprehensive Middle East peace. So this is a significant national interest and I would not expect any election results to have an impact on that.
QUESTION: As far as –
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on. Hold up.
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: We have to be – got to be equitable here.
QUESTION: Oh, so do you expect (inaudible) area in foreign policy can be affected by the result of the midterm elections?
MR. CROWLEY: Which policy?
QUESTION: Any kind of policy, do you expect?
MR. CROWLEY: Any kind of policy? (Laughter.) I like those specific questions. Well, again, we don’t know what the results today will bring. I mean, our – foreign policy in the United States is bipartisan most of the time. It is in pursuit of our national interests, which don’t change administration by administration or election by election. Clearly, what happens today may change some of the key players. They’ll bring in their own ideas in terms of how to execute foreign policy. But this election was not primarily about international affairs. It was about domestic affairs.
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know anything about that.
QUESTION: I have a Yemen question. Given that there’s been some criticism by some analysts about the fact that Yemen has been neglected as a region sort of by the U.S. and that’s led to sort of a resurgence in al-Qaida activity that perhaps could have been avoided, is there sort of a rethinking of what can be done in Yemen in terms of targeting different (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, a lot of that, Flavia, depends on your starting point. We have understood for some time that there are violent extremists in Yemen who are a danger to the region and to the United States going back to the USS Cole. And we have worked with – the United States has worked with Yemen for a number of years to help build greater counterterrorism cooperation. As we said yesterday, we have – we think that that cooperation has deepened and Yemen’s capabilities have improved. As we also stressed yesterday, Yemen is a government with a lot of challenges and limited capacities.
Now, if you fast forward to the start of the Obama Administration, for consecutive years we have significantly ramped up our attention to Yemen and our support from a bilateral standpoint, security standpoint, and development standpoint to Yemen. So speaking for the Obama Administration, we have been focused significantly on Yemen. We were focused on Yemen before the Christmas Day bombing attempt. We’ve been focused on Yemen since then and we’re working intensely with the government to combat al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. And we’re – we’ve been informed and we completely are supportive of Yemen’s announcement today of the indictment of Mr. al-Awlaki.
QUESTION: Are you confident that Yemen’s security forces can actually pursue al-Qaida and contain it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Yemen has taken decisive action against al-Qaida with our support. We have no – we – Yemen is focused on the threat posed by al-Qaida and we will continue to work with Yemen, continue to build up its capabilities so that it can continue to take aggressive action. That is in our interest and Yemen’s interest.
QUESTION: P.J., another one on Yemen, please. You’re talking about ramping up the development side in Yemen. Are there actually teams now on the ground or are there physical civilian groups there yet, or is this just something that’s being planned?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m confident there are development experts there. I can’t tell you – I’ll try to get more information on that, Jill.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question.
QUESTION: May I just have two quick one? One, as we’re talking about terrorism, P.J. –
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, you said quick.
QUESTION: -- not many countries are escaped, but China – we have not seen any terrorism against China or in China. But my question is: Because China is selling a lot of arms to the terrorists, is there something because they have a cozy relation with the terrorists?
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Goyal – (laughter) – I mean, there have been some concerns about Chinese weapons that find themselves into – that find their way into the hands of terrorists, and we are working with China to address some of those issues. There are, as we have cited in recent days, still issues with export controls from China. But that’s a much different issue than suggesting that China is backing certain terrorist groups. We have no evidence of that. In fact, we have cooperation with China and we talk about counterterrorism with China on a regular basis.
QUESTION: And a quick one on Afghanistan?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes, as far as those payments were concerned to President Karzai, I mean, it was just strange that a foreign hand is getting payments from a different – (inaudible) other countries. This is just like Seymour Hersh accused the former prime minister of India Moraji Desai in the late ‘70s in his book that he was on the payroll of the CIA. My question is: If the payments from Iran and – or from other countries have stopped going to President Karzai or not, illegal way?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, that’s a – that’s really a question for President Karzai. We recognize that a variety of countries are supporting Afghanistan and the government. We just want to make sure that that is done in a transparent way and that that support is truly for the benefit of the Afghan Government and Afghan people and not intended to undermine it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador?
QUESTION: Pritchard. Did you talk to him at all about his trip? Did you give him a message to pass on to North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not even – no. (Laughter.) I mean, we addressed that several days ago. Jack Pritchard is there as – he’s on a private trip.
QUESTION: And do you plan on talking to him about what goes on during his trip?
MR. CROWLEY: I think Ambassador Pritchard, when he travels and when he returns, frequently calls and provides a perspective on his travel and what he heard.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: One more.
QUESTION: South Korean defense minister came to you and said North Korea has the ability to deploy nuclear weapons which can be mounted on missiles or bombers. Do you (inaudible) to him?
MR. CROWLEY: That is obviously something that we watch very intensively and we’re concerned about nuclear tests, we’re concerned about missile tests, and sooner or later the trajectories on both of those would give North Korea a capability that is of concern to the region and destabilizing to the region. That’s why we continue to make clear to North Korea that it needs to be prepared to denuclearize. That’s at the heart of our strategy. We don’t want to see North Korea reach a point where it has both a weapon and an effective delivery system.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)
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