2:10 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. I’ve got a whole lot of stuff to talk about, so sit back, relax. (Laughter.) Obviously, the Secretary has completed her day in Wellington, New Zealand. She met with senior leadership of New Zealand, including Prime Minister John Key, Foreign Minister Murray McCully, and Leader of the Opposition Phil Goff. After her meetings, she and Foreign Minister McCully signed the Wellington Declaration that reaffirmed our close historical ties and recommits the United States and New Zealand to a strategic partnership. Tomorrow, she has a range of activities but will move on to Christchurch where she will review ongoing Antarctic cooperation between the United States and New Zealand.
We expect over the next couple of days as her schedule permits, the Secretary will reach out to congressional leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner on the House side as well as Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to offer congratulations and to pledge cooperation as we continue to address national security and foreign policy challenges facing our country.
Obviously, on a range of issues from ongoing support for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, other issues on nonproliferation and so forth, we will need a sustained, congressional support to succeed. In particular, as she talks to her former Senate colleagues, I think she will also reach out to incoming Senator-elect Mark Kirk as well.
She will stress the importance of ratification of the new START Treaty during the upcoming lame duck session. The treaty was reported to the Senate floor on a strong 14 to 4 bipartisan vote. Leaders from across the political spectrum, including former Secretaries of State and Defense from both Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as our entire military leadership, including seven former commanders of the United States Strategic Command have all endorsed this treaty. And we’ve had excellent discussions with a broad range of senators in recent weeks and we’ll continue to work with our Senate colleagues to ensure timely ratification.
We continue to be focused on Hurricane or Tropical Storm Tomas. The storm, whether at tropical or hurricane force, is expected hit Haiti either late tonight or early tomorrow morning. But we have worked closely with the Haitian Government and our international partners in anticipation of the storms. Not only will the strong winds challenge the Haitian people, but also significant danger from the expected heavy rains, mudslides, and flooding. Years of deforestation in Haiti add significantly to the danger. In and around Port-au-Prince, obviously where the earthquake damage last January was most significant, there are 400 shelters available in and around Port-au-Prince and these shelters can accommodate close to 1 million people, and we’ve been encouraging the people of Haiti to move to those shelters if they’re able in anticipation of the storm. If there is a silver lining here, it’s a very small one.
The storm is tracking west of Haiti, but clearly, the island will still be significantly affected. But we have significant capacity on the ground helping Haiti now, and additional resources are standing by. As we’ve mentioned in the last couple of days, the Iwo Jima is hovering and prepared to assist in the storm’s aftermath. And since January, Haiti’s disaster response capability has improved and the Haitian Government is taking aggressive action. In the aftermath of the storm, we expect a great deal of our effort will center around water and public health. We will have an aggressive effort to monitor public health and hygiene and be alert for any additional outbreak of the – of cholera. But we also have significant resources that have been prepositioned and we’re prepared as necessary to move additional assistance to Haiti.
Nearby, obviously, Tomas has affected the islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and others. Our Embassy in Bridgetown has declared a disaster there and is providing $50,000 which is the – under the Ambassador’s authority and is being provided to each country to help with local procurement of emergency relief supplies.
Staying in the region, we can confirm the deaths in Mexico of two additional U.S. citizen students who were shot in Ciudad Juarez on November 2nd. And this brings to the total of six over the past week who have been fatally shot and also brings to 84 the number of Americans killed thus far this year in the state of Chihuahua. But this underscores, again, the existing Travel Warning that we have for Mexico and for this particular region. But we continue to cooperate fully with Mexican authorities, and of course with these latest two deaths we offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
QUESTION: P.J., do you have any reason to believe they were targeted (inaudible) Americans?
MR. CROWLEY: At this point, no. But the investigation is underway.
Turning to Europe, the United States welcomes the visit of Serbian President Tadic to the city of Vukovar and his meetings with Croatian President Josipovic and Prime Minister Kosor. The visit demonstrates the continuing efforts of Croatia and Serbia to strengthen bilateral relations and to address the legacy of the tragic events following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. We commend Serbian and Croatian leaders for advancing reconciliation and look forward to a common future in the European Union with regional relations that benefit all.
Turning to Sudan, Scott Gration is in Khartoum today where he continued to consult with the parties. We – and we continue to support the work of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and international partners to ensure preparations for Southern Sudan’s referendum remain on schedule, starting with voter registration beginning on November 15th. Over the last few days, the United States Government and the United Nations have delivered referendum materials to Sudanese officials in Juba on Friday and in Khartoum on Saturday. And they are now being distributed to the referendum centers, and training and hiring of referendum workers has already begun. Ambassador Princeton Lyman has been home for a few days with consultations here in Washington. He plans to depart tonight to return to Khartoum to continue discussions between the parties.
Also, in Africa, the United States continues to encourage all actors in Guinea to continue preparations for the second round of elections on November 7th. We remain concerned. There have been delays with these elections in the past and we certainly do not want to see any further delay. The people of Guinea should be given the opportunity to exercise their democratic choice and set a course toward a democratic and prosperous future. After 52 years of nondemocratic rule since independence in 1958, the people of Guinea deserve a representative government with a popularly elected civilian president.
In the Middle East, or here in Washington, Senator Mitchell met today with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, among others, to discuss continuing efforts to encourage the parties to advance towards negotiations on a two-state solution. This follows up on a lunch that Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman hosted yesterday with Saeb Erekat. And as you’ve heard from the Secretary today, we do expect to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu next week. The details of that meeting are still being worked out.
And finally, tomorrow, a senior U.S. delegation will make a formal – the formal presentation of the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Presenting the United States report will be Assistant Secretary Esther Brimmer, Legal Advisor Harold Koh, and Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner. And the U.S. report covers the nation’s human rights record on such important freedoms as freedom of speech, association, and belief. It examines a range of challenges, including discrimination and topics related to civil liberties in the context of our national security. And it was developed in consultation with a host of U.S. civil society actors and organizations.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that real quick?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. worried tomorrow that the President’s term – that it might get a shellacking tomorrow when it appears before the --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, what?
QUESTION: That the – is the U.S. worried that it might get a shellacking on the President’s term when it appears before the council tomorrow?
MR. CROWLEY: Not at all. The report has been out since late August and it does highlight some areas where there is an ongoing debate in this country about certain areas. But the report, on balance, underscores that we have a human rights record in this country that is second to none. We present the report proudly and we’ll be happy to defend it if anyone has any questions.
QUESTION: This is about human rights in the United States?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, about human rights in the United States. And this is part of what we’re trying to do. Obviously, every – the Human Rights Council has encouraged every state that is a member of the United Nations to make a report and an assessment on the human rights situation in each respective country. This is our turn to present our report. We took our obligation seriously and we’ll demonstrate that the process that we had, scheduling a range of sessions around the country with people interested in the human rights environment in this country. We believe that this is a – this shows to the rest of the world a transparent, open process through which there can be a genuine debate, as there is in this country and other countries about issues of human rights concern.
QUESTION: On Haiti?
MR. CROWLEY: Yep.
QUESTION: So can you just walk us through what the State Department now has down there in the way of aid? There’s 20 DART team members, right? An additional nine because of the specific upcoming – is that right?
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s see, I don’t – I meant to bring down a more detailed record and I just – I forgot to put it in my book.
QUESTION: How about – then can you talk a little bit --
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll --
MR. TONER: (Inaudible) get it and bring it back.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We have a fact sheet.
QUESTION: There’s been one report so far of some locals who were in a camp, that they were – aid workers were trying to move them in advance of some flooding in the area. The locals apparently got very upset. They started a bit of a riot. What kind of security still exists there? And is the State Department – or are you aware of any additional security that might be going in beyond what MINUSTAH (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: No, but I think that you have in Haiti, just as you have in the United States – there are some people in advance of a storm that move and evacuate, and there are some people, for a variety of reasons, who choose not to. I think this is just a human phenomenon. But Haitian Government officials have been going out to the various camps. They have encouraged, aggressively, people to find shelter either in government shelters or with friends and family. But we recognize that for a variety of reasons, there are people in some camps who have chosen not to move.
QUESTION: Right. So are there any security concerns at this point that after – in advance of the storm or right after, there may be a need for additional security presence (inaudible) the U.S. or other nations?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – there – we do have – there is security in Haiti, both the Haitian national police supported by MINUSTAH. I don’t know that we are playing a significant role in the security front at this point. We know that there will be significant demands in the immediate aftermath of the storm. We have prepositioned supplies. We have a significant capability already on the ground in Haiti. We have the Iwo Jima standing by. But obviously, in these kinds of situations, this will obviously place great stress on the people of Haiti. We know that, particularly with flooding and mudslides, there’s going to be a loss of life. That’s inevitable. But we will be prepared to do everything that we can to meet the immediate needs of the Haitian people.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: The Secretary, in her remarks today, she seems confident that the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians may resume, and she’s saying this after Mr. Erekat visit today and the Israeli chief negotiator was here last week. Is there any agreement or an understanding you can tell us about?
MR. CROWLEY: Samir, I think that if we reach a point where both sides agree to reenter direct negotiations, we’ll be the first to let you know. (Laughter.) I mean, we’re working through it, but this is still a work in progress.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the State Department designated Jundallah as a terrorist group – the Jundallah in Iran. I was wondering if this designation had anything to do with the Iranian Government’s accusations that the CIA has been backing this group.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, let me specifically address that accusation. It’s false. The United States does not support terrorism, did not have any relationship with Jundallah, has provided Jundallah with no support. We designated Jundallah for a simple reason: It met the criteria under U.S. law to be designated as a foreign terrorist organization. It has engaged in terrorism. It does represent a threat to the United States and to our interests in an important region of the world.
QUESTION: Different topic. There were reports that the U.S. and U.K. Governments pressured YouTube to remove some videos posted by Anwar al-Awlaki. I was curious if that --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any discussions we had with YouTube on that.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Explosion of oil pipe in Yemen is – do you think that this is terrorist act or al-Qaida did this act?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that we’re in a position to say that at this point, can’t say.
QUESTION: Norway – regarding the surveillance detection program, the unit and the SIMAS, can you say a little bit about the clearance process between the U.S. Government and host governments for these (inaudible) programs?
MR. CROWLEY: We – other than what I said a couple of days ago, that we work closely with the host nation government. We share information. We have the same goal of protecting our Embassy and other diplomats in Norway. I’ve got nothing further to say in terms of the specific process.
QUESTION: But I – just follow up, because on Monday when I asked you, you said that the Norwegian Government was aware of these activities. They say they are not. So who’s lying here?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m – we – the security of our Embassy involves cooperation between our security officials and Norwegian security officials. I’ll just stand by those words.
QUESTION: I have a follow up on that.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: But why have you hired a building outside Norwegian – your Embassy in Norway, in Oslo, and filled it with Norwegian police officers and also Norwegian military officers?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a better question to ask our Embassy. I haven’t been there in a while, so I can’t provide you any insight.
QUESTION: But just to follow up. But both the State Department in Norway and also the Justice Department in Norway said they’re not aware that you have some activities outside your Embassy building. Why haven’t you informed the Norwegian Government?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, look, embassy diplomatic posts all over the world are ripe targets for a terrorist attack, whether they’re U.S. Embassies, whether they are the embassies of other governments. It is right and proper that we would take appropriate steps to protect our diplomatic posts anywhere around the world, and we would expect any government to do the same, whether it’s somewhere over – out overseas or here in the United States.
So we have a program where we look carefully to make – to evaluate if we believe our Embassy is under observation and potentially under threat. We share that information across the United States Government. But as appropriate, we share that information with our host government partners.
The essence of addressing this challenge which confronts the United States and other countries in the West is the very kind of intelligence cooperation and law enforcement cooperation that has been a hallmark of our alliances for a number of years.
So how much the host nation government knows about specific activities, I can’t say. But everything that we do is fully consistent with our security arrangements that we have with any host nation government anywhere in the world, including Norway.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Is there written agreements about this --
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say. At this point, I would just defer further questions back to our Embassy in Norway.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Mexico?
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You said that there’s no sign that the Americans that were killed there this week were targets. But is there any sense of what – I know that one of them was just recent.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me clarify. These matters are under investigation, so we’ll find out the circumstances. It is possible that specific individuals may well have been targeted. It is also possible that individuals just found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m not aware that we’ve reached any judgment on any particular case. But I think you will find, if you look back on the – those that have been killed this year, you probably have a combination of both circumstances.
QUESTION: But when you say were targeted, you mean specifically for being American – were targeted for being Americans?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, or they were targeted either because in some cases they worked for the United States Government, or in some cases they might have been involved in illegal activity.
QUESTION: WikiLeaks is apparently preparing to release another batch of documents, but they may not be yours. There’s some word that they may be from the UN or something. Do you still have any comment on their plans to do so?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we regret all of the activities that WikiLeaks has done, past, present, and future.
Let’s see, I’m just working through some – in terms of storm preparedness, among the things we prepositioned in Haiti, 40,000 blankets, 16,000 hygiene kits, 32,000 water containers – I’m rounding off here – 20,000 kitchen sets, working with FEMA. They’ve been a part of this effort. We’ve got CDC continuing to monitor the cholera outbreak. But those are among the kinds of gear that we have prepositioned in Haiti.
QUESTION: Prepositioned as of --
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: -- when you knew about the storm or has that been there for a while?
MR. CROWLEY: Since we knew about the storm.
QUESTION: So that’s additional to – okay.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, but we also have – there’s a range of stuff that is already there as well. So we’ve got warehouses that are well stocked and that material that has been in Haiti already will be obviously there in case it is needed.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) personnel you have there, specifically because of the storm this week?
MR. CROWLEY: Tell you what, come up afterwards. We’ll see what I got here.
MR. CROWLEY: Hard to digest. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:32 p.m.)
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