1:51 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Sorry we’re a few minutes late. The Secretary is en route back to the United States from a lengthy trip to the Asia Pacific region. She – over the weekend, she met with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, and opposition leader Tony Abbott to discuss ways of further strengthening the alliance between the United States and Australia, including continued efforts in Afghanistan and greater cooperation on space and cyber security. And of course, she was joined by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates along with Foreign Minister Rudd and Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith for the 25th annual Australia-U.S. ministerial consultations, or AUSMIN, which completed – were completed earlier today. She made a brief stop in Pago Pago, had some meetings there as their aircraft refueled, and we look forward to having her back in the building tomorrow.
She will do a number of things this week focused on Middle East peace. On Wednesday, she will hold a video conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad. She will also meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. And on Thursday, in New York, she will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The timing on the meeting Thursday is still a little bit up in the air, but we’ll have more to say about that tomorrow, I expect.
QUESTION: What location?
MR. CROWLEY: New York. Again, more details to follow. But that’s what I can tell you there.
Since we’re on the subject, I will mention with regard to the announcement of plans for 1,300 units in East Jerusalem, that we were – let me start again. We were deeply disappointed by the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. It is counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties. We have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem, and we will continue to work to resume direct negotiations to address this and other final status issues. And I would expect this will be a topic of discussion when the Secretary meets the prime minister on Thursday.
Turning to Africa, the United States is pleased with the manner in which the second round of the presidential election was conducted yesterday in Guinea. There were no reports of clashes or incidents of violence as seen in October, and those displaced by unrest were afforded the opportunity to vote elsewhere in Guinea. We hope now that Guinea will look – will work through the agreed 72-hour period as the Electoral Commission tallies the results.
Also in Nigeria, we are working with the Government of Nigeria on this particular attack, or this particular kidnapping that occurred earlier today. We can confirm that of seven individuals taken from a rig in the Niger Delta, two are U.S. citizens. We are, of course, concerned about their safety and hope for their immediate release. We are working with Nigerian authorities to pursue their prompt release and there’s an investigation already underway.
In Russia, the United States condemns the attack on Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin and calls on Russian authorities to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. Freedom of the press is a fundamental right in the United States and other countries, and we are committed to uphold the international and regional commitments. As the 2009 Humanitarian Rights Report noted, eight journalists, many of whom reported critically on the government, were killed over the last year in Russia. With one exception, the government has failed to identify, arrest, or prosecute any suspects. A free and independent press is central to a vibrant and well-functioning democracy. Journalists around the world must feel free to do their jobs without fear of intimidation or physical violence.
Turning to Haiti, you’ll note probably in the next couple of days an increase in the number of cholera cases and deaths. We would caution you as you see those numbers, having worked with the Government of Haiti over the past few weeks and months, and seeing improvements in the Haiti public health situation, we have been working to improve their surveillance detection capacity. And so, as we see some numbers rise, it doesn’t necessarily by itself indicate that there is a significant increase in the number of cholera cases, only that the surveillance system that the Haitian Government is employing with the support of the United States and international partners is actually improving. But this is an area that, obviously, we continue to focus on intensively in the aftermath of last week’s storm. We are gratified that, on the one hand, Haiti received a glancing blow from Hurricane Tomas; on the other hand, it did experience an enormous amount of water. And obviously, that has significant potential for danger for the people of Haiti.
And finally, we congratulate Edison Pena, the 12th miner rescued from the San Jose mine in Chile less than a month ago for completing yesterday’s New York City Marathon. He has provided the world a story of true personal strength and resilience. From his training in the dark and humid tunnels of the San Jose mine to crossing the finish line in Central Park, Mr. Pena serves as a testament to the human spirit, and we join the American people in saluting his accomplishment.
QUESTION: What about the Ethiopian and the Kenyan winners?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry.
QUESTION: What about the Ethiopian and the Kenyan winners?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) We congratulate them as well.
QUESTION: On the kidnappings on the Nigerian railway – off Nigeria, you said seven people were taken?
MR. CROWLEY: Seven people were taken, two Americans.
QUESTION: Do you know the nationalities of the others and --
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to other governments who may want to confirm that their citizens have been affected.
QUESTION: Were they wounded or injured, any of the two?
MR. CROWLEY: I think there were some injuries of those who were left behind, but again, we can’t say at this point that we know what the state of those who have been kidnapped, what their condition is.
QUESTION: I thought there was an American injured in this.
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: I thought there was, in addition to the two kidnapped, I thought there was one American injured in this.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. There were two others that were left behind, and one of those wounded was an American citizen. He is undergoing treatment as we speak.
QUESTION: On the talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Crowley, do you notice that there is a pattern here concerning the truth, Yosef’s announcement on building the – on the new buildings and so on coincided with the Vice Presidential speech in New Orleans? It seems that every time there is visitor, a high caliber visitor, be it an American visitor to Israel or an Israeli visitor to the United States, there seems to be an announcement of building settlements.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think the Vice President’s taking this personally. Look – and obviously, this is a process. We’ve seen these kinds of announcements before. Actually, some of this might date back to last month. And it could very well be that somebody in Israel has made this known in order to embarrass the prime minister and to undermine the process. This is expressly why we have been encouraging the parties to remain in direct negotiations, to return to direct negotiations, and to work through these issues face to face. This is the only way that they’re going to be resolved, and this just demonstrates again why it is vitally important for us to find a way for the Palestinians and the Israelis to be able to resolve the core issues in a negotiation and not through this jockeying, which brings out those who may well be opposed to peace in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there a – just a follow-on – is there a concern that the premiership in Israel seems to be working independently of the foreign ministry, on the one hand, and the authority that issue permits to build and so on, on the other? There seems to be confusion. Is there a concern in that area?
MR. CROWLEY: Right. As I said, I expect the Secretary will talk to the prime minister about this. As you said, this is not the first time we have experienced a situation where one element of the government or a government may not know what is happening in a different bureau, a different agency, or a different level of government. But all we know is this kind of announcement is counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Just to follow up on that, I mean, does this realization that you have now that one arm of the government may not know what the other arm is doing, does that reduce Prime Minister Netanyahu’s usefulness as an interlocutor? I mean, what’s the point of talking to him if he can’t control the people in his own government?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, he’s the prime minister. And ultimately, he is the one that has to sign on the dotted line if there is an agreement that ends the conflict. So Prime Minister Netanyahu is central to the process. In fact, on the key decisions that have to be made only an Israeli prime minister can make those decisions on behalf of the Israeli people.
QUESTION: P.J., just to follow, you’re not dismissing the notion that the prime minister may know and have the decisions made anyway, are you?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we look forward to the discussions later this week, and I’m sure the Secretary will be clarifying exactly what happened in this case.
QUESTION: Why that meeting will be held in New York, not in Washington?
MR. CROWLEY: I think the prime minister will be in New York and the Secretary will be up there to meet him.
QUESTION: P.J., is it your feeling that Prime Minister Netanyahu, after his meeting with Secretary Hillary Clinton, could reverse this decision?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, on the one hand, there’s a process that these kinds of advance plans go through. All we’re reflecting is the fact that these kinds of announcements undermine trust. They make it more difficult for the leaders to move forward. That’s why, rather than trying to resolve these things outside of negotiation, we once again continue to encourage the parties to get back into negotiations. This is the only way that you resolve issues like borders. And if and when you’re able to resolve issues like borders, then some of these issues become academic.
QUESTION: Is the Administration ready to discuss the release of Jonathan Pollard from the American prison --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to get into any particular areas of discussion.
QUESTION: A change of subject? The President today, in his address to the Indian parliament endorsed India for the permanent member of the Security Council. But his speech was quite silent on how he intends to take forward the reforms of the UN Security Council. It has been going on for past several decades. Has he spoken to some of his key allies or regional partners, how to take it forward, and when it’s going to happen?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the President did highlight the fact that, as we continue to promote reform within the UN Security Council, it is inconceivable that you could contemplate UN Security Council reform without considering a country like India. But we have to recognize, as you said, Lalit, this is a process that has been going on for some time, and it is a process through which we must consult with others within the UN and within the Security Council. But the President was clear that as we contemplate reform, we are mindful that, on the one hand, we need to protect the effectiveness and efficiency of the Security Council, but on the other hand, we are open to countries that demonstrate that they are prepared to contribute significantly to the peace and security of the world. And India is such a country.
QUESTION: So of the five permanent members, only China is left out, which has not endorsed India for the Security Council. Have you consulted with China on this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have talked to China about Security Council reform. We’ve talked to all of our partners in the Security Council, and I’m sure we’ll be doing follow-up discussions. We have reached out and explained the announcement that the President has made today. I just can’t say whether we’ve reached out to China at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: In most of the cases, President Obama usually puts a target date. In this, do you have a target date?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are not able to dictate the terms of reform. This is the Security Council. There are five permanent members, and so this will be a requirement for us to continue to consult within the UN and within the Security Council on an appropriate way forward.
QUESTION: Another one on President Obama’s speech. He said that Pakistan is not doing enough to fight terror, and you have given billions. Are you going to talk to them about this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, you’re cherry-picking. The President said a lot of things in his remarks in India. He was asked about Pakistan, and he made clear that India itself has an abiding interest in a stable and peaceful Pakistan. The President reinforced our view that Pakistan has recognized the danger to itself of extremist elements within its border. And the President did say that while Pakistan is making progress, more needs to be done.
QUESTION: But he said that – he asked Pakistan to bring to justice perpetrators of 26/11. So –
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. That continues to be our view, that these kinds of attacks can’t be tolerated. There cannot be impunity. And we – it remains our view that Pakistan has to redouble its efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.
QUESTION: So is the U.S. taking any steps to – or just the statement?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we cooperate with Pakistan and India on counterterrorism cooperation. But ultimately, the solution here, first and foremost, rests within Pakistan.
QUESTION: The President has now concluded – almost concluded – his trip to India, three-day trip to India. How do you sum his visit, his first visit to India?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it to my colleagues in Mumbai, who are closer to it, to –
QUESTION: How do the State Department sees its foreign relations?
MR. CROWLEY: And New Delhi. Yes. Hmm?
QUESTION: How does the State Department sees it from the perspective of Indo-U.S. relations and where is it –
MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the visit has achieved everything that we’d hoped for. As the President reinforced today, his was the third consecutive administration of Democrats and Republicans to visit India. It demonstrates the importance of our relationship and the importance of India’s emerging role in the world. And as President Obama made clear, he will not be the last President to visit India.
QUESTION: Whatever the –
QUESTION: I’ve got another – no, no, I’ve got (inaudible) but on Afghan –
MR. CROWLEY: There’s a tennis match going on here. (Laughter.) Your serve.
QUESTION: Afghanistan – he said that India has contributed a lot in the buildup, in the construction. So is the State Department going to invite India in the next meet on Afghanistan? There has a complete absence of the name India or even invitation to India to – when you deal with Afghanistan.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have talked to India regularly, repeatedly, in every high-level meeting about Afghanistan. We completely support India playing a constructive role in Afghanistan as part of our regional strategy. We recognize that a number of countries in the region, including India, including Pakistan, including others, can play an important and constructive role in the advancement of Afghanistan. So we have not excluded India in any way, shape, or form.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
MR. CROWLEY: Sweden.
QUESTION: And it’s a similar story to the Norwegian story last week. The U.S. Embassy in Stockholm is being accused by Swedish authorities of conducting intelligence activities that has not been authorized by Swedish authorities. And this morning, a prosecutor in Stockholm opened a probe into this matter to investigate if there has been illegal spying going on from the U.S. Embassy.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I – let me push back on your terminology. We have acknowledged that we have a program around the world where we are alert for people who may be surveilling our embassies, because we recognize that they are potential targets of terrorism, as we look back to the origins of this program, which go back to the attacks in East Africa on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 12 years ago. And we will be happy to answer any questions that any government has about the nature of these security measures to protect our embassies.
QUESTION: And when Swedish authorities and the Swedish justice minister says they have not been informed, is that true?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we reflect in different contexts, governments are fairly large, and there may be some instances where one agency of government has information the other agency of government does not. As we just said, if governments have questions about the nature of our efforts to protect our embassies, we’ll be happy to provide answers.
QUESTION: A Libyan newspaper has reported yesterday that an American diplomat has been ordered to leave Libya within 24 hours, following an alleged breach of diplomatic rules. Do you have anything on this?
MR. CROWLEY: This is an issue that we are discussing with the Government of Libya, and I will refrain from comment at this point.
QUESTION: But is this accurate or not?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I just said we – what you just characterized is not necessarily entirely accurate. I will confirm that we are having a conversation on this sensitive issue with the Government of Libya, and I will refrain from comment at the present time.
QUESTION: Is there any diplomat who left Tripoli to U.S. or not?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I’ll – Michel, I’ll just repeat what I just said.
QUESTION: Just continue the subject, out of the Sahara –
MR. CROWLEY: On what?
QUESTION: The Sahara. It’s been reports of violence between the Polisario forces and Moroccan security forces in Sahara with disputed number of deaths.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I’m not up on that today.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually Iran may have made those preferences known to the media. They have not yet made them known to Catherine Ashton, so we look forward to having an official response from Iran as to a date and location of our proposed meeting.
QUESTION: And a follow-up. If it will be held in Turkey, what will be the role of Turkey, apart from being host country?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, let – we look forward to a response from Iran, and when we get that response we’ll consult with our partners within the P-5 +1.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Iran. President Obama asked India to change its policy and not in a very direct terms. Is the State Department happy with the Indian policy, or are you looking –
MR. CROWLEY: Change its policy on?
QUESTION: With Iran.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t –
QUESTION: They’re being too friendly.
QUESTION: They’re being too friendly for – and because they have the – India has a UNSC –
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’ll – those kinds of questions about the nature of the conversation with the President and the prime minister I’ll leave to my colleagues at the White House.
QUESTION: Iraq. P.J., the French Government just announced that it will be receiving something like 140 Christian Iraqis. Has there been any request by a number of Christian Iraqis to come to the United States as a result of the violence?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have a very significant resettlement program here in the United States, but I’ll take that question as to --
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the targeting of Christian Arabs in a number of countries, whether it’s Iraq or --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, let’s be careful about taking one tragedy and then making too broad a statement about it. Are we concerned about religious freedom in the world, including in the region? Absolutely. This is a significant area of focus for us. We are concerned when anyone of any religion is attacked based on their beliefs. Everyone should have the right to freedom of religion, to practice as they see fit. And we think this is enshrined in universal rights that are – should be available to all citizens of the world.
So – but we spoke out very significantly last week at – when – during – in the aftermath of this tragedy and we continue to do whatever we can to help promote religious tolerance in Iraq and elsewhere.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Secretary Gottemoeller – Gottemoeller? Okay.
MR. CROWLEY: Gottemoeller.
QUESTION: Sorry, I can’t say her name right.
MR. CROWLEY: You were very – it’s a tough name. You were very, very close.
QUESTION: She gave a speech this morning in Washington and she referred to the policy towards North Korea. She said, “I think it’s time to resume the negotiation and in Six Party context.” I just wanted to reconfirm this doesn't mean on no condition.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure – I haven’t seen Rose’s specific remarks. We’ve – it’s fully consistent with what we’ve said that we are prepared to resume multilateral discussions at the point we feel they can be constructive.
QUESTION: P.J., do you think there will be a new proposal to North Korea at the President Obama’s meeting with the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak this week?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s --
QUESTION: And also, do you think the --
MR. CROWLEY: Let’s have – the President looks forward to his visit to Korea. I’m confident that North Korea will be a major topic of discussion since he will meet with many of the leaders of the Six-Party process. And we’ll compare notes as we have been, and then see what happens in the aftermath.
QUESTION: Also, do you think Ambassador Bosworth (inaudible) in Seoul or be visiting Seoul?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know who we’ll have on hand when the President’s in Korea.
QUESTION: Mr. Crowley, Azerbaijan held parliamentary elections yesterday and several media outlets, like I think Wall Street Journal, reported there were certain violations during the voting process. I was just wondering if State Department is monitoring the elections.
MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re actually going to have a statement on that a little bit later.
QUESTION: On Burma, the elections are now over. When do you plan to resume your engagement or the next round of talks with the new Burmese Government? And do you think you’ll soon appoint a new Burmese envoy, a special envoy on Burma?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re still evaluating. On your latter point, that is something that we’re still evaluating. On the first point, obviously, Burma is going through the process of announcing the winners of this election. We’ve made our position clear in Secretary Clinton’s statement yesterday that this was not a free or fair or legitimate election. Where we go from here, let’s wait and see what emerges from Burma.
QUESTION: But you are still looking to have talks with the new Burmese Government that comes out of this election?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are prepared to have discussions with Burma. We’ve had them in the past. We’re prepared to have them in the future. But clearly, we’re disappointed at what we think is a missed opportunity by Burma in the context of this just-completed election.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we normally do not comment on extraditions from this podium.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: You will not comment on the extradition of Headley, but what about the statements or information from Headley’s wives that you have not yet shared with India?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – all right. One more time?
QUESTION: There is a request for Headley’s extradition.
MR. CROWLEY: Well --
QUESTION: You will not comment?
MR. CROWLEY: -- let’s put that aside. I mean, there was a statement by the Director of National Intelligence’s office today on their preliminary findings in the investigation of the Headley matter. I’ll defer to that statement.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)
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