1:49 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A few things to touch on. First, the Secretary this morning participated in the Security Council Ministerial on Sudan in New York. And as she said, we believe that full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement provides the best chance of preventing a return to conflict in Sudan, and Sudanese leaders must take responsibility to ensure the full and timely implementation of the referendum.
The United States has already taken important steps to demonstrate our commitment to improving U.S.-Sudanese relations. We have changed our policies to ease the sale of agricultural and irrigation equipment to Sudan, and we have supported the creation of a group to work on ways to ease Sudan’s national debt consistent with international debt relief practices. As the Secretary says, as Sudan fulfills its CPA commitments, we are prepared to do more. And if Sudan commits to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Darfur and takes steps towards peace and accountability, we are prepared to offer Sudan a path to the ending of U.S. sanctions.
This afternoon – the Secretary has just touched down at Andrews, and this afternoon, she will meet with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger. We expect that they will talk about a range of subjects, including Austria’s continued contributions to peacekeeping missions in the Golan Heights, our efforts at stabilization and reform in the Balkans, and the importance of police trainers to the mission in Afghanistan.
This evening, the Secretary will welcome to Washington, Foreign Minister William Hague. Obviously, they saw each other this morning in New York as well. And he will have a bilateral with the Secretary tomorrow here at the Department, where I expect they’ll talk about ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, updating of the situation in the Middle East, continuing concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, our mutual efforts regarding Iran – I’m sorry – regarding Sudan, and preparations for the summit later this week in Lisbon.
QUESTION: Not the royal wedding? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: We love weddings here at the Department of State, and we look forward to seeing another one next year.
Turning to Russia, today we mark with sadness the one-year anniversary of the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitskiy, who died of apparent medical neglect in pretrial detention in Moscow’s Butyrsky prison. While we welcome President Medvedev’s statements of support of judicial reform and the rule of law, we note with regret that no one has been charged in connection with this case, despite a justice ministry investigation. The United States continues to call for the Russian authorities to prosecute all responsible for Mr. Magnitskiy’s death and protect the fundamental rights of all, including those in prison.
Turning to Guinea, obviously we’ve seen the provisional announcement that names Dr. Alpha Condé as the winner of the recent second round of presidential elections. It is our understanding that rival candidate Cellou Diallo, plans to contest the election results, and we certainly encourage Mr. Diallo to use the proper legal channels and register his concerns with the supreme court. We encourage both Dr. Condé and Mr. Diallo to urge their supporters to remain calm and allow the court to evaluate any irregularities.
And finally, the United States remains gravely concerned about Iran’s continued harassment, detention, and imprisonment of human rights defenders. For example, we understand that the trial of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is reportedly under way, but it is proceeding without the transparency and due process guaranteed under Iranian law. Iran’s leaders should know that their efforts to silence those Iranians who stand up for the rights of their fellow citizens does not go unnoticed. We once again join the international community in calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including those imprisoned for defending detainees or speaking out against human rights abuses, and urge Iran to afford its citizens those rights that are universal to all people.
MR. CROWLEY: It remains the Obama Administration’s belief that the START – New START Treaty is in our national interest, and we believe it should be voted upon in this lame duck session. We’ve engaged senators for many months over the details of the treaty. We believe that we’ve answered all their questions. We’ve addressed their concerns, including concerns that Senator Kyl and others have expressed about ensuring that there is an effective modernization program as a companion to the new START Treaty. And we will continue our dialogue with the Senate, but it is our firm view that the START Treaty should be ratified while Congress is in session, or while the Senate is in session.
QUESTION: Well, are you disappointed? Are you disappointed or surprised at his comments?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ve engaged Senator Kyl and others in good faith and we’ll continue to do so, but our message is that the START Treaty should be ratified now.
QUESTION: Are there any plans for the Secretary or anyone to speak to Senator Kyl about this, or is that a White House thing?
MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary had a conversation with Senator Kyl last week, along with Vice President Biden, and I’ll defer to the White House, but I would expect that we’d have further discussions with Kyl and others.
QUESTION: Did you understand after that meeting with Biden and the Secretary that Senator Kyl might not take the position that he’s taken now?
MR. CROWLEY: Well –
QUESTION: By all accounts it seems that the Administration has kind of been a bit sandbagged here and that you didn’t expect – you thought Kyl would go along and now he’s come out and said –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we believe that we’ve addressed his concerns. We’ve negotiated in good faith. We believe we put forward the kind of package that ensures that we’ll have a strong nuclear deterrent going forward. And we’ll continue these discussions with all of the 100 senators who will have the opportunity to vote on the treaty.
QUESTION: Are you willing to consider amendments to it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have addressed all of the questions that the senators have had.
QUESTION: Right, but I –
MR. CROWLEY: We’ve made clear to – many have questioned whether the New START Treaty in any way inhibits us from developing a missile defense capability. Senator – or I’m sorry – Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, others have assured the senators that that is not the case. We believe that this treaty is in our national interest. We’ll continue these discussions, including with Senator Kyl, and we believe at the end of the day the treaty should be ratified.
QUESTION: Okay, my last one on this. When you say that you’ve addressed their questions, is it your view that you’ve addressed them to their satisfaction?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ll continue – to the extent that Senator Kyl still has concerns, we will be willing to continue to engage with him and assure him that we believe that we have satisfactorily answered his questions, addressed his concern, and put forward a combination of actions that can assure that our security will be protected and that the START Treaty is definitely in our national interest.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Can you confirm reports that the Administration has offered to provide an additional $4.1 billion to help modernize the nuclear arsenal as part of this –
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer those kind of details to the White House.
QUESTION: Sort of in the same category, Thailand’s extradition of Viktor Bout to the United States has been met –
MR. CROWLEY: That’s sort of in the same category? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yes. Well, we’re still talking about the START Treaty.
QUESTION: Antagonizing Russia. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: A lot of people in Russia are really angry and frustrated at this decision, some saying that this could get in the way of the reset relations between the U.S. and Russia; your reaction to that.
MR. CROWLEY: We have a broad and deep relationship with Russia. It is guided by our mutual national interests. Those national interests overlap. We understand that on a number of issues, we agree to disagree sometimes. We have tensions that crop up periodically and we work to manage those. I don’t expect that this will have any impact on our relationship with Russia.
QUESTION: But they say this was illegal. They say this was the U.S. bullying Thailand and that this move was totally against the law.
MR. CROWLEY: It is fully consistent with both our bilateral treaty obligations with Thailand and fully consistent with international law.
QUESTION: And did this come up – did the case come up at all in the meeting that the Secretary had with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Hanoi?
MR. CROWLEY: Rest assured, this – I can’t say whether it came up in that meeting. We are aware of how the Russian Government feels about this.
QUESTION: And so they’ve spoken to you today directly or are you just going by the --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know if they’ve spoken to us today, but they have spoken to us on this issue.
QUESTION: Change of subject. The Israelis are still waiting for a written offer or proposal from the United States to discuss the settlement freeze. Have you sent them this proposal?
MR. CROWLEY: All right, Michel, I missed the first part.
QUESTION: Yeah, the Israelis are still waiting for the written proposal from the U.S.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to get into specifics as to where we are. We’re trying to encourage both sides to get back into negotiations. As the Secretary said yesterday, the status quo is unacceptable. We want to get them back to negotiations. We still believe that an agreement can be reached within the 12-month period that the Secretary outlined back in August. But in order to get to the agreement, we have to get them back into negotiations, but I’m not going to give a play by play from here.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this. The Israeli Government, too, has blamed the Palestinian Authority for thwarting the understanding between Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Have you got any reaction from the Palestinians?
MR. CROWLEY: We – our efforts are to get both parties back into direct negotiations as soon as possible. We are engaged with the Israelis. We have engaged with the Palestinians. Our message to both is the same: Get back to direct negotiations, work through the core issues, and get to a just, fair, and equitable settlement and agreement within 12 months.
QUESTION: P.J., without getting into the specifics of what is being proposed, is it correct that the Israelis have asked for a written proposal or a formal –
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not going to talk about –
QUESTION: This has nothing to do with any of the details of the –
MR. CROWLEY: I understand. I understand –
QUESTION: Are you prepared to give them a piece of paper that outlines what you’re willing to do to get them back to the table – to get them to –
MR. CROWLEY: We’re prepared to do everything that we can to create the conditions for both the Palestinians and the Israelis to have confidence to return to direct negotiations.
QUESTION: Including giving the Israelis some kind of a written –
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I just said I’m not going to do a play by play from here.
QUESTION: But this – we’re not – the –
MR. CROWLEY: I – Matt, I –
QUESTION: They were not being asked – look, the Israelis have come out and said they’re not going to vote on this tomorrow in the cabinet because they’re waiting for a written proposal. I fail to see how it would affect the negotiations if you say that yes, you’re willing to consider giving them something in writing.
MR. CROWLEY: We will continue to work with Israel to address what it sees as its legitimate interest in this process. We’ll continue to engage with the Palestinians and address the Palestinians’ interest in this process. We want to get them back into negotiations. We’re trying to create the conditions to do that. Again, I’m –
QUESTION: Right, I understand.
MR. CROWLEY: As to where we are today, where we might be tomorrow, we have not talked about the substance of this and will not.
QUESTION: But the – I guess I just don’t understand how this gets into the substance of it.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I –
QUESTION: A piece of paper, whether you’re willing to write something down on a piece of paper is not the substance – is not substantive. It’s not a question about the substance. I’m not asking you what the words are that are going to be on a piece of paper or that might be on a piece of paper. I’m just asking if you are willing to give them something written down.
MR. CROWLEY: We will do everything that we can to encourage the parties to get back into negotiations.
QUESTION: All right. Just to follow – let me try it from a totally different angle. Do you think you can do that without giving them a piece of paper? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: It’s a very good question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Today Assistant Secretary Gordon twice cancelled his appearances which he was going to talk about U.S. –
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, and we apologize for that. Although, I believe that actually in about a half an hour’s time – the reason we cancelled the two briefings, first of all, was because his first briefing would have overlapped with the Secretary at – and her intervention in New York. And as we found out at the start of the day, the White House is actually doing a call, I believe, at 2:45.
MR. CROWLEY: And since the Secretary’s schedule and the President’s schedule significantly overlap, we will defer to our colleagues at the White House.
QUESTION: There are only two or three days left for Lisbon’s summit – NATO summit. My question is: Have you – has your Administration heard any assurances from Turkey whether they are going forward with the missile system?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the White House call at 2:45 to go through preparations for Lisbon. Obviously, missile defense is one of the areas where we’ve talked within the alliance in anticipation of Lisbon.
QUESTION: P.J., there’s a report due out tomorrow from the U.S. Economic and Security – U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. It says that on April 8th for a brief period, 15 percent of the world’s internet was routed or rerouted through Chinese servers – Chinese internet servers and that .gov and .mil websites were affected by this. Have you seen this report?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: And what’s your reaction to it? Does the U.S. have an effective cyber defense against China?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that’s a better question to ask the Department of Homeland Security.
QUESTION: Well, has there been any dialogue with China on this issue in particular? Any – are you pressuring them in any way to offer some answers here –
MR. CROWLEY: Let me see what I can find –
QUESTION: -- to why this might have happened?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me see what I can find out. I don’t – I’m not up to speed on that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Mideast for just one second? You said in – I’m not asking about a piece of paper, don’t worry. You said that you still think that you can meet the Secretary’s timeline of 12 months, but that’s kind of a different story than what you said yesterday, which is that you weren’t sure they could do that.
MR. CROWLEY: No, I don’t know that it was a different story. I thought I said yesterday that our goal remains –
QUESTION: Yes, your goal –
MR. CROWLEY: -- to complete an agreement in 12 months, and that remains our goal. Is there a guarantee of success? There’s not. And it will ultimately be up to the parties to make the difficult decisions to get to an agreement. But our goal – having seen some of the coverage overnight, our goal remains 12 months.
QUESTION: Ten months.
MR. CROWLEY: Nine months. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Nine months.
MR. CROWLEY: Samir.
QUESTION: Is Secretary Clinton taking charge now instead of Senator Mitchell in the efforts to convince Israel and the Palestinians?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have the luxury of a very deep, high-level bench when it comes to these issues, starting with the President of the United States who made a commitment to pursue comprehensive Middle East peace on day two of his Administration by naming George Mitchell as special envoy. The President has been deeply engaged, the Secretary has been deeply engaged. We have George Mitchell and others. So we have assembled an all-star team and we are putting on a full-court press to get the parties into --
QUESTION: That’s enough. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Two Hail Mary passes -- (Laughter.) --
QUESTION: Do you hope to cross the goalpost? (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: We expect to score major points in the next nine months.
QUESTION: Speaking of --
MR. CROWLEY: But look, obviously the Secretary spent several hours with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week. And as needed, she will be personally and deeply engaged in this. But we have David Hale in the region today as we speak and others, so this just demonstrates our ongoing commitment to proceed with comprehensive peace. And it really does require more than one player to get the parties across the finish line. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What is David Hale doing?
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t – I don’t know that David has had any specific meetings at this point.
QUESTION: So what does he --
MR. CROWLEY: But he’s in the region, and I would anticipate he’ll be in touch with the parties in the coming days.
QUESTION: About what?
QUESTION: Well, is he --
MR. CROWLEY: About the --
QUESTION: He’s not over there on vacation.
MR. CROWLEY: -- the topics under discussion in a variety of formats.
QUESTION: So who is he going to meet with?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’ll – as David has – I talked to David this morning and --
QUESTION: Well, the Palestinians are under the impression that he’s going to be meeting with them tomorrow. Is that correct?
MR. CROWLEY: I – that is a possibility, yes.
QUESTION: And will he also have a meeting with the Israelis?
MR. CROWLEY: David frequently connects with both sides while he’s in the region. But again, as David has meetings, I will lay them out for you.
QUESTION: All right. To what end? I mean, are you hoping that his meetings there will bring – will result in the Israeli cabinet voting on a new freeze and the Palestinians saying okay, we’re ready to go back to the table?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way, we want --
QUESTION: Is that the goal?
MR. CROWLEY: We want the Israelis and the Palestinians to return to direct negotiations, and we are engaged with both sides to encourage them to do that. We will continue that engagement and we will continue that encouragement.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Please. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: I’m – you’ll have to help me. I haven’t seen --
QUESTION: He’s told one of the channels yesterday that we – our support to Pakistan is “inadequate” – he used the word. And also – and he said that the U.S. should give money to the chief of Pakistani military. I don’t understand why the U.S. should give to --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m reluctant to comment on a report that I have not seen. We have significantly expanded our assistance to Pakistan. We have continued very robust military and security assistance, and we have augmented that with very significant assistance to strengthen Pakistan’s civilian institutions and help Pakistan expand its economy. And we will continue to do everything that we can to help Pakistan advance. But we think we have a very robust combination of civilian and security assistance to Pakistan that is helping Pakistan deal with a very significant threat, which is a threat to Pakistan as well as a threat to the United States.
QUESTION: But just to follow up, should we wait for later in the day? Because the second is that bin Ladin is still at large because the U.S. Army has not caught him. So --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure – is there a question there?
QUESTION: He says it is because we haven’t caught him that bin Ladin is still out there.
MR. CROWLEY: That would be true. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So is it – how do you take it, like is it that you know where he is and you are just letting him around?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, we continue our hunt for and interest in capturing Mr. bin Ladin.
QUESTION: Can I please – I want to take you to Latin America. The question is concerning the Argentina. Yesterday, the Argentina Government announced that – announced once again that it’s going to negotiate its debt with the Club of Paris, something that the Department of State several times requested the country to do. I would like to know if you have any comment on that, if you are happy with that.
MR. CROWLEY: Start it again? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, the Argentina Government said once again that it’s going to negotiate its debt with the Club of Paris, something that the Department of State several times requested the country to do – the government to do. And so I would like to ask you if you have any comment on that, if you are happy with --
MR. CROWLEY: Let me take the question. I’m just not up to speed with where we stand with respect to Argentina and the Club of Paris.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll come back to you.
QUESTION: You spoke about a certain trial case in Iran, the lawyer who’s been put on trial, and about human rights violations in Iran. Has the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma sort of encouraged the Administration to be a little more outspoken about human rights in Iran in addition to other places?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t know that they’re connected. We have spoken out about our concerns about civil society and human rights in Iran on a number of occasions, particularly since last year’s elections and the government’s heavy-handed response in the aftermath. We have spoken out repeatedly about human rights in Burma and also about the case of Aung San Suu Kyi. We speak out about human rights in other countries as well. So it is part of the priority and emphasis that we put on that issue anywhere in the world.
QUESTION: There’s a draft resolution at the General Assembly in New York right now on human rights in Iran. It bears the name of 38 countries. Would you happen to know which country or how many countries initiated that draft resolution?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry. Charlie.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have an update. I think the situation has calmed overnight. Clearly, concerns are on the rise, frustration is on the rise. We understand that. The number of cases continues to rise. The number of hospitalizations continues to rise. And tragically, the number of deaths now has crossed over 1,000 because of the cholera outbreak.
We continue to work extensively with the Government of Haiti. In the last day, the Centers for Disease Control has launched a training program to expand the number of people that can provide significant assistance to the people of Haiti, help them understand the steps that they can take in terms of personal hygiene, treatment of water, and so forth, which are central to arresting the cholera outbreak.
There’s also an aggressive public information campaign to help the people of Haiti understand what they need to do and where they can go for assistance. And in the meantime, we continue to bring in to Haiti the kinds of simple but effective measures – hygiene kits, soap, water, wash basins, rehydration kits – the kinds of things that can help us help the people of Haiti treat the symptoms of this outbreak.
QUESTION: Anything on the clashes between UN forces and –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I saw that – there is obviously an investigation going on to try to determine the source of the outbreak. As far as I know, that investigation is ongoing and has not reached any conclusions.
QUESTION: In the last few days, there have been a number of clashes between Moroccan troops and local population in Western Sahara. So far, the information about the incidents is very confusing. I would like to know if you have any specific position about the issue, which is going to be discussed today in the UN Security Council. And also, the fact that these clashes are raising some tensions between --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure, sure.
QUESTION: -- allies of the United States and Spain --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and as I recall, the UN envoy will be reporting today to the Security Council on his recent findings. We are concerned about violent clashes, but that is also why we continue to support the UN process to try to mediate the situation in Western Sahara.
QUESTION: And the accusations from Morocco against Spain saying that this instigating the revolt –
MR. CROWLEY: Again, but we look forward to hearing the envoy’s report and we continue to support the UN process.
QUESTION: P.J., can I – I have a broad proliferation question.
MR. CROWLEY: What will you ask me about now?
QUESTION: Well, is the – does the Administration still think that it’s important for Pakistan and India to sign the CTBT and the Nonproliferation Treaty – or ratify, sign and ratify?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me take that question. I mean, we support the (inaudible). We’ve encouraged Pakistan to sign on to the Fissile Material Cut-off regime. But I’ll get you a specific –
QUESTION: All right. Specifically on CTBT and India and the Nonproliferation Treaty, which it has – which it refuses to sign, I’m curious as to what the position is and how that position, which I think has not changed, which is that you do want them to sign, how you can reconcile that with support for India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: That’s the question.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we –
QUESTION: I recognize that the U.S. has not –
MR. CROWLEY: We do not – we don’t see those as being at odds.
QUESTION: You don’t?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: And you don’t – you think that India has the same – given the President’s interest in nonproliferation and removing nuclear weapons from the world, do you think that India has an equal –
MR. CROWLEY: Well –
QUESTION: -- that its candidacy should be looked at equally with Japan, which has forsworn nuclear weapons completely, or South Africa, which has given up nuclear weapons?
MR. CROWLEY: India has shown itself to be a responsible global stakeholder, and the President announced our position on India’s membership in the Security Council. And our support for India is not exclusive of our support for other countries as well. But I’ll take that specific question.
QUESTION: Can you?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: It might add into it whether the – I mean, it may not, may no longer be the Administration’s policy that you want them to sign onto these treaties because of the agreement that they reached with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, but --
MR. CROWLEY: We are supportive of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
QUESTION: All right. And then my last one, which is on a different subject. Is there any update on the P5+1 meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: I think – I checked with the EU this morning, and they are still waiting for an Iranian response.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)