1:37 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Department of State. Several things to mention before taking your questions:
Obviously, this morning, the United Nations Security Council renewed the United Nations operations in Cote d'Ivoire unanimously with a vote of 15 to nothing. It extends UN peacekeeping forces there for an additional six months. We’re also aware that the European Union has agreed on sanctions against former President Gbagbo this morning. The United States has a similar process underway, and we will be prepared in the coming days to impose additional sanctions as well. Meanwhile, we are distressed to learn the extent of the abuses being perpetrated by masked militants in Cote d'Ivoire, that home abductions are occurring and the discovery of a possible mass grave in Abidjan. We deplore the use of violence and call for all Ivoirians to remain calm and peaceful.
This morning in Caracas, our acting Chargé Darnall Steuart met this morning with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. At the meeting, the foreign minister presented her with a Diplomatic Note formally withdrawing the agreement of Larry Palmer to be the Ambassador to Venezuela. We regret this action taken by the Venezuelan Government, and it will bear responsibility for that action. We believe that precisely because there are tensions in the relationship, it was important to maintain diplomatic communications at the highest level. President Obama nominated Larry Palmer to serve as Ambassador to Venezuela because he has a unique combination of experience, skill, and wisdom to successfully represent our nation in Caracas, and we have never wavered in that view.
Staying in the region, Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Brazil on January 1, 2011 to attend the inauguration of President-Elect Dilma Rousseff. Brazil is an essential partner in the hemisphere and the world, and the United States is committed to deepening our relationship on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues with Brazil’s Government and people. The United States looks forward to working with President-Elect Rousseff and her administration to advance these and other shared goals.
Tragically, we can confirm that our Embassy in Tel Aviv has identified the deceased U.S. citizen as Kristine Luken, and we offer deepest condolences to her family. Consular officials are in touch with her family and with Israeli authorities to assist to the best extent possible. Meanwhile, the Israeli national police continue to investigate the attack that resulted in her death.
The United States continues to support ongoing efforts of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The tribunal is an independent judicial institution created by the United Nations and Lebanon and brought into force by the UN Security Council. The establishment of the tribunal was a clear sign that Lebanon’s sovereignty is nonnegotiable. Issuing indictments related to the tribunal is entirely the decision of Special Prosecutor Bellemare. The United States has never and will never attempt to influence his decision.
There have been suggestions in recent days that lengthy postponement of indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to U.S. policy on Iran – in actuality, neither our support for the work of the tribunal nor our policy with respect to Iran has changed. Regarding Iran, we have consistently made clear that our policy is one of engagement and pressure entirely dependent on Iran’s willingness to address the concerns of the international community and to live up to Iran’s own international obligations.
And finally, the United States strongly condemns all election day violence in Belarus. We are especially concerned over excessive force by the authorities, including the beating and detention of several presidential candidates and violence against journalists and civil society activists. The Government of Belarus should release immediately those detained and caution authorities to use restraint in the coming days and not to harm, threaten, or further detain those exercising their basic rights. The United States concurs with the assessment of the OSCE. We cannot consider the election results yesterday as legitimate.
QUESTION: I want to take up a couple of things that you mentioned at the top before you get barraged with North Korea questions. One, on the Ivory Coast, you said you’re prepared in the coming days to impose, quote, “additional sanctions,” end quote. What are the – are there existing sanctions on – back --
MR. CROWLEY: No, additional to what the European Union has announced.
MR. CROWLEY: We have a process underway to review sanctions against President Gbagbo, against his immediate family, as well as those who are supporting him. And we’ll announce those as we finish that process.
QUESTION: Okay. And – but it’s still your position that he should step down, right?
MR. CROWLEY: Absolutely.
QUESTION: And leave the country?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And are you not concerned that sanctions, particularly if they’re travel sanctions, might affect his ability to leave the country?
MR. CROWLEY: Nothing that we decide to do will impede his stepping down and making way for the government of President-Elect Ouattara.
QUESTION: Okay, and then on Venezuela. What you said is exactly the same thing that the Chargé said, who then added at the end of the – it’s Venezuela – Venezuela will bear the responsibility for this, that he or she – I don’t --
MR. CROWLEY: She.
QUESTION: -- then said that Washington would – presumably meaning you – would have more to say about this. And it sounds as though you don’t have anything more to say about it. Is Larry Palmer still the – is he still going to Venezuela?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Larry Palmer has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. His nomination still remains before the United States Senate. Obviously, with the withdrawal of agreement it is not likely that he will, if confirmed, take up his duties in Caracas. But that is still a decision before the – for the Senate.
QUESTION: Well, you can withdraw the nomination and nominate someone else.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have no plans of withdrawing the nomination.
QUESTION: Well, does that mean --
QUESTION: So are you saying that you’re not going to send an ambassador to Venezuela? Is it – when you say that you thought that it was important to maintain high-level dialogue and that Venezuela will bear the consequences for its actions towards Larry Palmer, are you saying that the consequences are that you’re not going to send an ambassador there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the decision has been reached by Venezuela not to accept Mr. Palmer as the ambassador, should he be confirmed by the Senate. And obviously, that has consequences in terms of our relationship with Venezuela. We’ve been discussing this issue with Venezuelan authorities for a number of months. We have cautioned them that if they were to withdraw agreement it would have an impact on our ongoing relations. They made this decision, and obviously we will evaluate what to do in light of it.
QUESTION: Well, does that include PNG-ing their ambassador here?
MR. CROWLEY: We’re – in light of what’s happened this morning, we will evaluate the consequences of our relationship.
QUESTION: Well, but when you talk about consequences, what’s the range of consequences?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, when we decide what to do we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: What did they say they will do next? What was the explanation?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave that to the Government of Venezuela.
QUESTION: But they did issue no reason, no explanation?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, they’ve been making public statements for some time, concerns that they’ve had about questions that Mr. Palmer answered as part of his nomination process are – point to Venezuela authorities – had been -- he is exactly the kind of person that can help to lead U.S.-Venezuelan relations in new direction. Unfortunately, Venezuela seems not to agree.
QUESTION: What will be the next step, according to you? What will be the Plan B for Venezuela or U.S-Venezuela relations after what happened today?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we will evaluate the implications of this. We made clear to Venezuela that this kind of action would have consequences, and we’ll evaluate what to do in light of Venezuela’s decision.
QUESTION: Do you see any possibility that during this visit of Secretary Clinton in Brazil that she can meet also foreign minister of Venezuela there so they can discuss that issue?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that a particular meeting is planned. Obviously, while she is in Brazil she’ll have the opportunity to interact with many of her counterparts. But nothing is planned, as far as I know.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Same topic?
QUESTION: Yes. Could you elaborate a little bit more on which would be the consequences of these actions by the Venezuelan Government? What is the U.S. going to do?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean, obviously this just happened this morning. It is something that we’d hoped that Venezuela would not do, but it is a step that Venezuela has now taken. We’ve made clear to Venezuela over months that there would be a consequence, and we will evaluate what to do in light of this decision.
QUESTION: But what is asked – I mean, I know we’ve gone over this before, but what’s the whole point of the process of agreement in the first place? Because, I mean, shouldn’t it be the prerogative of the host country, who’s accepting an ambassador, whether they want to accept that person or not? I mean, you have the choice to not accept anybody that any country puts forward to you if that candidate is not acceptable.
MR. CROWLEY: No, no. Elise, we’re not arguing that it is within Venezuela’s rights to take this action. What we’re saying, having taken this action, there will be a consequence in terms of U.S.-Venezuelan relations.
QUESTION: Is that a threat?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: Or a promise?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea or Koreas?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay, so you saw what happened or – and then what did not happen in response over the weekend with the test firing. One, do you have any reaction to the decision by the North Koreans not to escalate or retaliate? And secondly, what do you make of what the North Koreans seemed to have told Governor Richardson, in terms of allowing inspectors back in and –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, there was no basis for any other response by North Korea. This was an internal matter for South Korea. Its military has a right to exercise within its own borders. This exercise was not a threat to North Korea. The South Koreans announced the exercise in advance, so it wasn’t a surprise to North Korea. And this is exactly how countries are supposed to act.
QUESTION: So they don’t get a gold star for not doing anything?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: So this is not something that you think is a positive development? I mean, for you – you have been pushing them to take steps to reduce tensions, and then not doing something is a way to not --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, but – well, there was no basis for a provocative response to this exercise, like there was a provocative response to the exercise last month.
QUESTION: All right. And what do you – what about what he said – what the North Koreans told Governor Richardson about being willing to accept inspectors back in and also being willing to return to the Six-Party Talks?
QUESTION: And also a joint U.S-North Korean-South Korean military kind of communications or hotline or something like that.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first, just to reiterate, Governor Richardson is on a private visit. He did not ask our permission before he went, and we did not approve his visit. We would expect to get a report from him when he returns from North Korea, so we’ll have – we’ll gain a perspective as to what it was that North Korea told him.
I mean, North Korea talks a great game. They always do. The real issue is what will they do. If they are agreeable to returning IAEA inspectors to their country, they need to tell the IAEA that. If they’re willing to participate in mechanisms that reduce tensions with South Korea, we certainly would favor any step that reduces tensions and improves communication in the region. But we’ll await a full report from Governor Richardson when his trip completes.
QUESTION: So do you not accept this as kind of an – obviously, because this wasn’t an official visit, but do you not accept these as a kind of real or tangible offer by North Korea until you see it specifically, directly from the North Koreans themselves? And are these – I mean, are these ideas – whether they’re actually going to implement them or not, are these ideas that you would see as positive if implemented?
MR. CROWLEY: But is the – well, the big “if” is if implemented. We’ve seen a string of broken promises by North Korea going back many, many years. We – as we’ve said all along, we’ll be guided by what North Korea does, not by what North Korea says it might do under certain circumstances.
Certainly, we want to see North Korea live up to its international obligations. And so if North Korea wants to reengage with the IAEA, wants to reintroduce inspectors into its facilities, that certainly would be a positive step. But the key is following through and implementing that decision and meeting its international obligations both under international agreements and also under the 2005 joint statement.
QUESTION: Well, even though this wasn’t an official visit by Governor Richardson, did – and you said you didn’t approve it – did you talk to him before he left? I mean, were you – did he have any briefings? Did he meet or speak with any officials?
MR. CROWLEY: We did not – I mean, Governor Richardson has a fair amount of experience in these matters. I’m not aware that we gave him a briefing ahead of time. I would expect that we would receive a full report from him and his team when they return from North Korea.
QUESTION: It does kind of seem that – even though, again, that it wasn’t an official visit – that the combination of he was, while he was there, urging them not to take any provocative actions in light of the drills, he was on the ground urging restraint during that time. And he does have seemed to elicited these concessions from North Korea, so it does look as if he was able to talk some sense, if you will, into the North Koreans.
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll see.
QUESTION: Can I – you said --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean --
QUESTION: Well, it does look as if he did --
MR. CROWLEY: -- hope springs eternal.
QUESTION: But it does look – I mean, even though he wasn’t going on behalf of the U.S. Government, it does seem that he was able to get some movement by the North Koreans that you weren’t able to.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we have an enormous respect for Governor Richardson. He has great experience with respect to North Korea going back to his days as our ambassador in the UN. Not arguing that this interaction may have value, but we’ll see. I mean, it really depends on what North Korea decides to do. We’ve been clear as to what we need to see from North Korea in the coming weeks and months. If North Korea takes actual steps to meet its international obligations, to fulfill its promises under the 2005 joint statement, we are prepared to respond. We’ve made that clear for quite some time.
QUESTION: P.J., would you say whether the steps that have been proposed reportedly are enough for you to agree to return to talks? You’ve said for a while that there is a list of things that you’d like them to do. Is this within that or is there --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again --
QUESTION: -- additional stuff you’d like to see?
MR. CROWLEY: -- we will watch to see what North Korea actually does rather than what it says it might do.
QUESTION: So you actually want to see them do any of these things before there’s any negotiation at all? I mean, you want --
MR. CROWLEY: You bet.
QUESTION: -- to see that the negotiators on the ground, or the inspectors on the ground --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, positively. We made clear that if they take – if they meet their international obligations, take affirmative steps to reduce tensions in the region, and take affirmative steps to denuclearize, we will respond accordingly. But they have to actually begin to undertake those steps before we would contemplate any action.
QUESTION: All right. And then two other points I just want to clarify. You said just before Richardson went, but I just want to hear from you now that he’s gone, that he was not carrying any message from the Administration. Can you say that?
MR. CROWLEY: He was not carrying any message from the Administration.
QUESTION: Okay. And then also can you kind of take us – give us a window or a tick-tock into what happened yesterday as – any sort of meetings that happened as the live-fire exercises were about to begin, the level of concern within the Administration about the possibility of some sort of North Korea retaliation?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it’s hard for me to give you a full picture. Obviously, we were concerned about the uncertainty of how North Korea would respond, even as we completely support the right of South Korea to exercise its military as it sees fit.
We were closely monitoring events over the weekend here at the State Department, so was the Pentagon, a number of meetings involving our Ambassador Kathy Stevens and the Commander of Forces in Korea General Sharp.
QUESTION: And what about the – was it – can you talk about the Secretary’s role at all in any of the meetings here in Washington?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary, along with Deputy Secretary Steinberg, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell were very closely monitoring events through the weekend.
QUESTION: P.J., as far as escalation in the South-North, is this up to only North Korea, also of China? Because many experts are saying recently, according to many briefings in the Washington area, that the North may be acting because China is behind North against the South. So what – are you talking to the Chinese for – as far as this – before it goes to a full-blown --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, yes. Deputy Secretary Steinberg, NSS Senior Director Jeff Bader were both in Beijing last week. We had conversations with China about developments on the Korean Peninsula. Obviously, there was a debate within the UN Security Council yesterday led by Ambassador Susan Rice, and she, in turn, was interacting with her counterparts on the Council, including representatives from Russia and China and other countries.
QUESTION: P.J., you said --
QUESTION: Change the topic?
QUESTION: No, no, no, no. You said that you – you said that --
MR. CROWLEY: Promise I – we’ll get there eventually.
QUESTION: You said that you did not approve the trip, but doesn’t the Treasury Department have to, in fact, authorize any – authorize visits like this if they’re going to spend any money there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think so, but we’ll take that question just to double check.
QUESTION: Also, you said that – also, you said --
MR. CROWLEY: But Governor Richardson did not ask for our permission.
QUESTION: No, no, no, I know – but I realize that, but I think --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, it’s --
QUESTION: Are there not technical things that have to be done to --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure North Korea is in the same boat as, say, Cuba.
QUESTION: But the North --
QUESTION: His visit was in preparation --
MR. CROWLEY: But I’ll take that question just to double check --
QUESTION: His visit was in preparation for some time. He didn’t go suddenly. So you did not talk to him during that period? The visit was being prepared for a few months. It is just that by chance he’s there during this escalation of –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the timing of the visit was between Governor Richardson and officials in North Korea.
QUESTION: P.J., this –
QUESTION: P.J. –
QUESTION: This list that was – sorry, just a quick one. This list that was – this three-point plan that came out of this, that you said this would be positive steps if implemented, would that be enough to resume negotiations?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I can repeat what I said earlier. We will be guided – as we’ve said all along we’ll be guided by what North Korea does, not by what it says publicly or tells a visitor like Governor Richardson. If North Korea reduces tensions, takes steps to reduce tensions in the region, if North Korea builds a more constructive relationship with South Korea, if North Korea meets its international obligations, if North Korea takes affirmative steps to denuclearize, as consistent with the 2005 joint statement, we will respond accordingly to those kinds of specific actions.
QUESTION: P.J., do you think –
MR. CROWLEY: Jane – oh, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah, do you think we really need the Six-Party Talks for nuclear free Korean Peninsula?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re not against returning to Six-Party Talks, but we don’t want to have talks just for talk’s sake, and North Korea has a singular responsibility to take affirmative action that warrant a return to Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: So are you saying that – I mean, it seems as if they say, anyway, that they are willing to take steps, and I know you said that you’ll see what they do, but don’t you think that the things that they said that they were willing to do are the basis for some kind of discussions directly with them? Or you want to see them actually admit the IAEA inspectors and send some kind of communiqué to you that they’re willing to set up this joint military command, or whatever they’re calling it, before you’re willing to talk to them?
MR. CROWLEY: We don’t have – as we’ve described, there are things that we think North Korea can do that would demonstrate a seriousness of purpose that would justify a consideration of returning to the Six-Party process. It’s not you have to do A, B, C, D, or E or else; it’s – these are broad descriptors. We want to see better relations between North and South Korea. We want to see North Korea meet its international obligations. We want to see North Korea follow through on its commitments under the 2005 joint statement. There are lots of ways to demonstrate that seriousness of purpose. If North Korea takes those kinds of steps, we’ll respond accordingly.
QUESTION: But, P.J., do you believe the Six-Party Talks is a failure, or still there is light at the end of the tunnel?
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, try me again.
QUESTION: The Six-Party Talks, do you believe it’s a failure or still you have hope there for peace?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Six-Party concept has value. Our concerns about regional developments are shared by other countries from Russia to Japan to China, and certainly South Korea. So the mechanism by which we have this kind of international consultation and collaboration and resolve is very valuable. But obviously, the Six-Party process requires action by six parties, not just five.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) North Korea (inaudible) nuclear weapon state. The U.S. has been pretty clear that they won’t accept it. But a lot of people think what the North wants to do is you let the inspectors back in, you show them like they showed Hecker the new infrastructure they have and say, “All right, we’ll trade this away, but we’re going to keep these bombs.” And basically the international community will get sucked into recognizing North Korea as a weapons state. I’ve even heard at the IAEA, they’re a little bit wary of going back in with the inspectors for this exact reason. It’s about – it’s part of a strategy to force recognizing them as a weapons state. How are you going to – or how is that being kind of watched? Because I know that’s something U.S. officials have talked about in the past, that they don’t want to be put in the position of accepting North Korea.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re not going to accept North Korea as a nuclear state.
QUESTION: As a nuclear state or a nuclear weapons state?
MR. CROWLEY: As a nuclear weapons state.
QUESTION: But it’s okay with – like with Iran, they do have the right to nuclear –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, North Korea is no longer a party to the Nonproliferation Treaty. They withdrew.
QUESTION: So they don’t have any rights?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are – as we’ve said, we are willing to consider how to meet legitimate energy needs that North Korea has.
QUESTION: But they are a nuclear weapons state.
MR. CROWLEY: And I’m losing my voice. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Could we change topics?
MR. CROWLEY: One more.
QUESTION: Do you think you can talk to North Koreans to restart the excavation of the remains of American soldiers in North Korea?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we would hope that as a humanitarian measure we could continue cooperation with North Korea on return of remains. But again, that is separate from these other considerations in our view.
QUESTION: Do you have –
QUESTION: Also – one more. You talk about the 2005 statement, but that statement does not include North Korea uranium program. So what do you think of it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it – we want to see North Korea come clean about its nuclear programs. We want North Korea to meet its international obligations not to pursue a weapons program. As North Korea does that, we’re prepared to have a discussion about North Korea’s legitimate energy requirements going forward, just as we did under the framework agreement in 1994. But the fact is North Korea has not followed through and has not met its international obligations.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Said first.
QUESTION: P.J., yesterday, Human Rights Watch issued a very lengthy report, 166 pages, and it was quite damning of Israeli practices, it – calling institutional discrimination. And it’s quite detailed, and it shows that all this is done for the benefit of the settlers and basically to dislodge the Palestinians from their hamlets and villages and so on. Are you aware of the report?
MR. CROWLEY: I have not read it.
QUESTION: Are you normally – is it traditionally for you to view the report and issue a statement?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, tell you what. I’ll take the question as to whether we’ve seen it, and if so, if we have a reaction to it.
QUESTION: And what – okay. What action will you take also?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take that.
QUESTION: Do you have any – what’s the latest on this American in jail, Paul Waggoner, who was arrested on kidnapping? I know we talked about it a little last week.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But he continues to make --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the Middle East for just one second?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, sure.
QUESTION: I just want to get an update. You said that Hale and Shapiro were having talks this week. What’s their status?
MR. CROWLEY: They are in the region. I think they’re having talks in the coming days with both Israeli and Palestinian teams, I think, today and tomorrow.
QUESTION: And then back here?
MR. CROWLEY: I think so.
QUESTION: Are you made aware of the friction between Fayyad and Abbas over the issue of declaring a state? It seems that Mr. Fayyad is opposed to it while Mr. Abbas is putting it forth.
MR. CROWLEY: Look --
QUESTION: And does that complicate things --
MR. CROWLEY: Our position on this is that this is expressly why we favor a return to negotiations. We believe very earnestly that that is the best route to a viable Palestinian state.
QUESTION: Back to Haiti, what is the latest on this gentleman? Apparently, he has been denied medical care. Some people say he’s been denied food, seems to be sick in jail and is receiving threats from prison guard officers. What’s the latest?
MR. CROWLEY: Our officials at the U.S. Embassy have visited Paul Waggoner on December 13 and 15. He – they were at a preliminary hearing last week. They’ve been in communication with his lawyer. We’ve reached out to both the Government of Haiti and MINUSTAH and received assurances they will safeguard his well-being while he is incarcerated at the national penitentiary.
QUESTION: Have you received any indications that he’s being mistreated in jail?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, part of our duties as – at the Embassy is to provide him consular assistance. We – part of our effort is to try to ensure that our citizens are not mistreated, and we monitor their health and welfare. I’m not aware that we’ve heard any concerns about his well-being at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. And what about his charges that the baby that was in his care had died and he put it in the morgue along with the other people that have died, and that the father now is claiming that he stole the baby, and that’s why he was arrested for kidnapping?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, he’s been arrested on a kidnapping complaint, and that complaint is still under investigation.
QUESTION: Well, do you think that these are trumped-up charges?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we are closely monitoring his case. It is being investigated, and we’ll make sure that he has full rights as he goes through this.
QUESTION: Just going back to the Middle East again, on the woman who was killed, I realize you said the investigation by the Israeli police is still underway, but I’m just wondering if – there have been some officials who have suggested, at least in the Israeli media, that this was a terrorist act. I’m wondering if you have any indication that it was, in fact, a terrorist act, or if it was a robbery gone bad or (inaudible) --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we haven’t reached a judgment at this point.
QUESTION: Is there any U.S. presence there or on their way there to help, any kind of investigating presence?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: And can I ask another one, actually, on START, unless you have something?
QUESTION: No, go ahead.
QUESTION: What – can you talk about any specific outreaches Secretary Clinton is making today or the rest of the week, phone calls or whatnot, and to whom, on START?
MR. CROWLEY: She has been closely monitoring events on the Hill. She has made a number of calls to senators in – on both sides of the aisle over the past several days. I haven’t got a list to tell you who, but she has been significantly engaged through this process. She’s had – going back a number of weeks, she’s had meetings with Senate leadership and individual senators to try to assure them that the treaty is in the national interest and that concerns about anything ranging from impact on missile defense to the verification regime can try to satisfy all of those questions.
She is poised to continue to engage any senator with questions as we go through the final couple of days of debate. Obviously, we’re looking to the cloture vote tomorrow in the Senate, but continue to believe strongly that it is – this is the time for the Senate to act and ratify the treaty.
QUESTION: I know you said you don’t have any lists, per se, but do you know specifically if she spoke to Senator McConnell?
MR. CROWLEY: She has spoken to Senator McConnell about this.
QUESTION: In the last few days?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know in the last few days, but she and Senator McConnell have had conversations on START.
QUESTION: Can you get us that list?
QUESTION: Is she making similar --
QUESTION: Yeah, could you get us that list, especially just kind of the timeline of what --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. We’ll see if we have a list of calls that she’s made, say, over the past week or so.
QUESTION: Are you --
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, let’s stay on START.
QUESTION: Hold on just a second.
QUESTION: Let’s stay on START.
QUESTION: Well, this is congressional calls.
QUESTION: Just to stay on – can – do you have any confidence at this point about it being – the treaty being ratified this week? I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: I think – we are closely monitoring this. We’re doing our own whip count here. But we believe the votes are there to ratify the treaty.
QUESTION: Are you surprised at the transformation of Republican objections to this as they have evolved through the weekend?
MR. CROWLEY: What do you mean by that, Matt?
QUESTION: Well, initially, there was the McCain amendment which wanted to change the preamble. Then there were other – for one specific reason – and then there were amendments offered and defeated – or at least one offered and defeated that wanted to put – what was it now – that wanted to put tactical nukes into the preamble, a (inaudible) in the preamble. There’s been several other things that are basically – the objections to the treaty seem to be evolving as – in other words, once one challenge is beaten back, they – that the Republicans are coming up with another one.
MR. CROWLEY: I suppose, unfortunately, we’re not surprised. We always understood this was going to be a difficult process to get to 67 votes. We believe that the votes are there. We’re hoping for a successful cloture vote tomorrow, and then a vote on ratification. But I think that’s just evidence that we believe that we’ve answered all the questions that have been raised. There’s still a suggestion that somehow this is rushed even though the Senate has been considering the START Treaty for nine months. We believe we’ve answered all the questions; we believe it’s in the national interest; we believe it’s important to ratify the treaty, get our inspectors back into Russia; and that we can move forward with further negotiations with Russia on things like tactical weapons and other considerations, but –
QUESTION: If you –
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: If you believe that you’ve answered all the questions, why are you prepared to keep answering the same question over and over and over again?
MR. CROWLEY: Well –
QUESTION: When is it time – when does the Administration take the gloves off here and call the Republicans out?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – Senator Reid has put the cloture vote on the docket for tomorrow, and we believe that the votes are there.
QUESTION: But will –
QUESTION: Does Secretary –
QUESTION: Let me take it one step further. Do you think that these are delay tactics by the Republicans, that it’s political or that there are legitimate concerns that they’re trying to still flesh out after –
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there have been legitimate concerns. We believe that we’ve answered those concerns. At this point – any objections at this point are more about politics than substance. And that’s regrettable, because it’s contrary to the history of strong, bipartisan support for arms control treaties going back decades.
QUESTION: The Republicans allege that – first that leaves the United States with lopsided – in favor of Russia – nuclear weapons.
MR. CROWLEY: Lopsided –
QUESTION: That the Russians will have a lopsided quantity compared to the Americans – that’s one, and second, that your nuclear weapons –
MR. CROWLEY: Boy, I – just on that point –
QUESTION: -- are 30 years-old while theirs is quite modern.
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know of anyone who wants to trade our forces for Russian forces.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: There is a –
QUESTION: Good answer.
QUESTION: There is a joint letter from the newly elected members of the Congress and with a cc to the Secretary about not passing the START because they want to consider this. Has the Secretary reached out to any of the newly elected members? There’s a joint letter –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, on the Senate side, I think the Secretary has spoken with Senator Kirk among the newly elected members who are already seated. But we’ve done a very comprehensive interaction not only by the Secretary, but also by Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher and Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller. Again, we have been at this for many months. We believe that we’ve answered questions. It’s time for the Senate to step up and for votes to be counted.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: All right. Going back to the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei dismissed today as null and void any ruling that the tribunal may issue soon, because he implied that the tribunal is a U.S. tool. Do you consider such statements as interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, the supreme leader does not have the authority to – over the tribunal. It was convened by the United Nations. We are supporters of it, but as our statement at the opening made clear, it is independent, and we look forward to whatever judgments the tribunal issues.
QUESTION: But do you consider his statement as an interference in Lebanon’s affairs?
MR. CROWLEY: We regret that there are many in the region who have chosen to politicize the work of the tribunal.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: What – sorry, I have a question. What about the Armenia genocide resolution which already caused the Turkish Ambassador to be recalled once earlier this year. There’s talk about it going to the floor. What is the Administration doing to try to stop that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve made clear our opposition to that resolution.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary making calls to Nancy Pelosi or other people in the House to say don’t bring it to the floor?
MR. CROWLEY: We are in touch with the House on this. I can’t say whether it’s the Secretary, but we’ve been in touch with the House.
QUESTION: Well, wait, wait. Has anything happened since you first answered the question on Friday? Are you aware of anything happening in terms of this building? You – this question came up at Friday’s briefing and you said the same thing – we’re opposed to this.
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: Has anything happened in your expression of opposition –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – I mean, the State Department –
QUESTION: -- since then?
MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean, we are in touch with the House on this issue.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:17 p.m.)
DPB # 207