1:37 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and Happy New Year. Welcome to the Department of State for the first briefing of 2011. The first thing that Secretary Clinton did this morning was to welcome Tom Nides as the new Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. He was sworn in this morning by Pat Kennedy and is now getting up to speed on a range of issues from the budget to the way forward on the QDDR. But you’ll have an opportunity to meet Tom Nides in the very near future.
Ambassador Steve Bosworth is on his way to Seoul, and there he will meet with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Ambassador Wi Sung-lac, and then as part of this trip will travel on to Beijing and to Tokyo.
QUESTION: Just on that --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: You – the trip that was – the last trip that went out there with Sung Kim and you said – and Kurt Campbell couldn't go because he was sick, has that been rescheduled?
MR. CROWLEY: It has not. I checked on that this morning, Matt. It has not yet been rescheduled. And I think we will focus first on the consultations that Ambassador Bosworth has and then make decisions on future travel.
And finally, Ambassador Princeton Lyman is on his way to Sudan. And General Scott Gration, our special envoy, will join him later this week as we continue to focus on the referendum coming up on January 9th. I would say at this point that we are optimistic about the referendum this coming weekend. Sudan and Southern Sudan have come a long way over the past few months, but we also are very sober in that, depending on the choice made by the people of South Sudan this weekend, we know there’s still a long way to go and a difficult road ahead as we get into negotiations between the North and the South on the post-referendum issues, depending on the choice that the people of South Sudan make.
QUESTION: What does that mean when you say you’re optimistic about the – you’re optimistic it will be peaceful? You’re optimistic it will be – it will reflect the will of the people of Southern Sudan? You’re optimistic what?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe that if not yet, there should be an announcement of the preliminary figures on voter registration. I think the observers – certainly our view and the observers in Sudan have viewed the registration process as very credible. And we believe that the right signals are being sent both in North and South in terms of the upcoming referendum and respecting the results. So the environment, we think, is constructive leading into this weekend, but we understand that there are still many unresolved issues both in terms of dealing with the decision that the people of South Sudan make this weekend, but also continuing to work on Abyei and also continuing to work on the ongoing situation in Darfur.
QUESTION: Which --
QUESTION: Staying with this?
QUESTION: Can I go to something else then? Can you explain why Ambassador Bosworth is going to those three countries now?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, he’s following up on travel that was made last month by Deputy Secretary Steinberg and at the time NSC Director Jeff Bader. Again, NSC representative Danny Russel is with Ambassador Bosworth and also Ambassador Sung Kim. It’s part of our ongoing consultations to both evaluate the current situation and the way forward.
QUESTION: Do you think you are any closer to achieving a – (a), first of all, a resumption of some kind of North-South dialogue – both countries have made public statements lately suggesting that that might be a possibility; and then (b), to a resumption of Six-Party or some other kind of multilateral talks?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t want to put the cart before the horse, to draw the first metaphor of 2011. We want to see tensions in the region ease. We have noted public statements about the potential for improved dialogue between North and South. Obviously, that can be important and we’ll see whether the North follows through on that offer for dialogue. Certainly, intra-communication across the Korean Peninsula is an essential element of easing tensions, and that will be one step. But obviously, there are a number of things that North Korea has to do.
QUESTION: And does – last, does North Korea still have to take actions showing that it is serious about implementing the 2005 agreement and other – and subsequent agreements about its denuclearization before the Administration would be willing to get into a multilateral conversation with them?
MR. CROWLEY: There are steps that North Korea can take. Easing tensions with the South is one such step. Ceasing provocative actions is another step, showing a seriousness of purpose and following through on its commitments. So there are things that we will be looking for from North Korea that show us that further dialogue would be constructive.
QUESTION: Commitment on denuclearization? You didn’t actually use that word, so may be other commitments that you’re thinking about --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, following through on its 2005 joint statement.
QUESTION: P.J., on North Korea, before the holiday was a very, very tense situation. I mean, they were actually talking about the possibility of war. And then all of a sudden, poof, it seems to be kind of back to a more stable situation. Maybe stable is not the word, but it’s quite different from what it was before. (Laughter.) How do you explain that? I mean, what exactly is going on?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, explaining things in the Korean Peninsula, particularly in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, is challenging. I mean, we did take note of the fact that North Korea, having issued some bellicose language, stepped back from that language and did not follow through. So we’ll be watching to see what North Korea does. So to some extent, what we’re hearing publicly is promising. However, words have to be followed by actions, and we will be looking to see what North Korea actually does, not just what it says.
QUESTION: Can you enlighten us – moving on? The Secretary’s first official business of the year was to fly down to Brasilia for the inauguration. And I’m wondering if you can enlighten us as to the substance of the – or lack of substance in the conversation that she had with President Chavez.
MR. CROWLEY: It was a brief encounter. The Secretary and leaders were gathered together on the margins of inauguration of now Brazilian President Rousseff, and President Chavez greeted her. She returned the greeting, and then from there she was with other leaders who joined in, from President Santos of Colombia to President Pinera of Chile, Prime Minister Socrates of Portugal. So it very quickly went from a brief greeting to kind of a broader, but still informal and brief, conversation.
QUESTION: Was there anything of substance said? Did they talk about ambassadors, that kind of thing?
MR. CROWLEY: It was very brief. I actually don’t know what was talked about.
QUESTION: Did they shake hands? You said he greeted her, and she reciprocated. Was it a handshake, a bear hug --
MR. CROWLEY: It has been described as a handshake. I have no reason to – I’m sure it was not a hug. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Follow-up. Thank you, Mr. Crowley. Do you see this as a positive sign from Venezuela to the U.S. or from the U.S. to Venezuela, that it could be in any way – will improve relation between both countries?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are interested in good relations with Venezuela, and obviously that involves, among other things, having ambassadors at posts who can help to manage that engagement. As we said late last year, we regretted that Venezuela has withdrawn agrément regarding our ambassador – our nominee at the time, Larry Palmer. And as we’ve confirmed, we’ve taken action in response to that.
QUESTION: But what will be the next step after that? So Ambassador Alvarez leave Washington, so there is no U.S. Ambassador to Caracas? How do you foresee the future?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s what we’ll be evaluating going forward. We believe it is important to have an ambassador at post, able to engage governments directly, in this case, the government in Caracas. We regret that agrément was withdrawn on Ambassador Palmer. We thought that he would be an excellent interlocutor to help improve relations between our two countries, but we will evaluate where we go from here.
QUESTION: Are you going to think in another possibility, I mean, that the – no Ambassador Palmer, but another possibility, another ambassador, another designee?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, that – these are issues that we will be evaluating with the new year. I believe that Larry Palmer’s nomination formally expired with the end of the last Congress, so among the issues that we’ll be evaluating is what to do in light of that and the step that Venezuela unfortunately took.
QUESTION: So his status is that he’s no longer the nominee?
MR. CROWLEY: We will have to re-nominate an ambassador candidate.
QUESTION: And it didn’t need to be formally withdrawn? It just expired?
MR. CROWLEY: No, it just expired.
QUESTION: Change topics?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Perhaps something less challenging to explain, like the status of the peace process. Could you share with us what is the status of the peace process, what Senator Mitchell is saying (inaudible) going on?
MR. CROWLEY: Senator Mitchell is here today for at least one meeting. We will be following up on the working level activity of late last month. Our focus is on engaging the parties on the core issues and using that as a basis to move forward.
QUESTION: And Mr. Netanyahu today put the blame squarely on the Palestinians for the failure of going back to the talks. Do you share that sentiment?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, we haven’t changed our ultimate goal, which is a framework agreement on the core issues. To get to that goal, we will be engaging on the substance of – behind this effort, see if we can’t close the gaps in the coming weeks and months. At some point to get to a framework agreement, the parties have to return to direct negotiations and – but right now, we will continue our working-level efforts to see – on the core issues.
QUESTION: Many other --
QUESTION: Despite your statements saying that we hold Mr. Barak – Ehud Barak in good standing, the Israeli sources insist that there has been, at very high levels in the American Administration, an expression of vocal displeasure with Mr. Barak. Could you again address this issue? I know you have, but could you again just --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, it’s not for us to get inside Israeli politics. I think it was our view that yesterday’s story in Haaretz was more about political mischief than real substance. We have the greatest of respect for Defense Minister Barak, and we will continue to engage him on the full range of issues between – within our relationship. Nothing has changed there.
QUESTION: Can you explain – Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that Dennis Ross will be traveling to the region at the end of the week. Is Senator Mitchell going with Mr. Ross?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, regarding Dennis Ross, any travel plans that he have, I’ll defer to the White House. George Mitchell has no immediate travel plans.
QUESTION: I mean, why – I understand the desire to defer to the White House, but it does seem odd if a senior NSC official is going there that you guys can’t even say whether that’s right or not, or why Mitchell wouldn’t go too since --
MR. CROWLEY: No, I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just simply saying that on the – on travel arrangements for Dennis Ross, I’ll defer to the White House. He is on the National Security staff.
QUESTION: Okay. But if it’s not wrong, why wouldn’t, given that Senator Mitchell has – is the special envoy and has the responsibility, announced by the President on his first full day in office, to work on Israeli-Palestinian peace, why wouldn’t he be going too?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Arshad, there are a number of people who engage on these issues. George Mitchell is one. He is the special envoy. But there are others. Dennis Ross has Middle East peace within his broader portfolio. He has experience with these issues. I wouldn’t see this in zero-sum terms.
QUESTION: Were you aware of this protest that happened at Ambassador Cunningham’s house? At his residence in Tel Aviv over the weekend, a bunch of protestors tried to, quote-un-quote, “return teargas canisters” that were fired at them that led to the death of a protestor.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not, actually.
QUESTION: Okay. The reason I ask is that the Israeli police say that some of the teargas canisters were still active and that they were treating it as an attack on a diplomatic facility.
MR. CROWLEY: And --
QUESTION: Can you --
MR. CROWLEY: -- we certainly support the investigation. I mean, I am aware of the episode in terms of the teargas, but I’m not aware of the protests. But I’m – we understand it’s being investigated.
QUESTION: Do you – so you – I’m sorry, you’re aware of the protest at the Ambassador’s residence or --
MR. CROWLEY: No, I do understand that there was teargas that was led off in conjunction with a protest – I didn’t know the location of the protest – and that I believe at least one person was killed as a result of that. And I believe it’s being investigated.
QUESTION: Well, this was – this is – there are two separate incidents.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: There’s the one where the teargas was fired and then there was this one in front of – can you --
MR. CROWLEY: I did not know anything about the other --
QUESTION: Okay. Can – is it possible to check to see if you guys are treating this as an attack on one of your diplomatic facilities?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Can we – Middle East, Middle East.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the Palestinian issue for a second, how do you coordinate, or is it – how is it normally coordinated between Mr. Ross and the envoy? I mean, do they work independently of each other, or do they coordinate their travel plans? I know you said (inaudible) I understand that.
MR. CROWLEY: It’s very simple. We have a – we’re fortunate to have a significant number of people who have experience in this region. George Mitchell is one, David Hale is one, Dan Shapiro is one, Dennis Ross, and others. And they’re all engaged on these issues on an ongoing basis. The team is well-coordinated, and the fact that at one point, one or more figures would be involved and at another point, a different set of figures would be involved – this is testament to the importance that we give to these issues. And we continue to make it as arguably the highest priority that we have.
QUESTION: What is the update --
QUESTION: Just a quick one.
QUESTION: What is the update – the view of the United States on the Palestinian resolution that it’s going to present to the UN on the settlements?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can’t comment on something that hasn’t happened yet. We continue to believe that the parties need to resolve these issues through negotiations.
QUESTION: Just a quick one. Do you see as the White House taking over the Middle East peace process?
MR. CROWLEY: I know there’s always a temptation to --
QUESTION: Let them have it.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Whew. (Inaudible) questions anymore.
MR. CROWLEY: One should not read – these are difficult, complex issues. The President is fortunate to have a broad array of officials who have experience in these issues and are fully engaged in trying to resolve them.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu --
QUESTION: Pakistan, can we --
MR. CROWLEY: Hold on.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly told his cabinet that the – he was surprised that the offer for – the conditions for a three-month extension were withdrawn at – was that your understanding before the announcement, that they were willing to accept continual three-month extensions?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I will defer to the Israeli Government to explain their position. As we indicated late last year, we were focused on a moratorium extension. Based on our engagement with the parties, for a variety of reasons, we felt that that was no longer, at this time, a basis to move forward. And we are focused on a different path at this point.
QUESTION: Let’s go back to the UN resolution for a second. Have you told the Palestinians that you will veto such a resolution?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to detail our conversations with regards –
QUESTION: Well, have you talked to the Palestinians about their plans?
MR. CROWLEY: This concept is not new.
QUESTION: Right, and have you talked to –
MR. CROWLEY: All right, look –
QUESTION: Have you talked to them about it?
MR. CROWLEY: As I said, this concept is not new. We’ve talked to the Palestinians on these issues for some time.
QUESTION: Right, but in this specific instance, in terms of what they’re planning to do in the immediate future, have you spoken to them about their plans?
MR. CROWLEY: Have I – have we spoken to them this week?
QUESTION: Well –
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say we’ve spoken to them –
QUESTION: -- since they started telling people that they were going to do this.
MR. CROWLEY: The Palestinians are familiar with our point of view on this.
QUESTION: The Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is in town this week –
MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on, hold on. You’re – we’ll go to Pakistan first, and then we’ll –
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the situation in Pakistan and what’s happening with the coalition government there and especially the timing of it? Because it seems like it’s very much a big distraction over there when the U.S. would really like to focus on militants –
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this is about internal politics within Pakistan, which has a parliamentary system, and you have a coalition government, and there are – there’s activity within that coalition, and the government is working to clarify what their support is. We’ll continue to work with the Pakistani Government. We’re building a strategic relationship with Pakistan, and –
QUESTION: But as the political wrangling continues, don’t you find that it’s diverting attention away from where the U.S. would really like it focused, which is the battle against militants?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, a civilian government, we think, is essential to the future of Pakistan and to building institutions of government that can transform the relationship between the Pakistani people and the government. So we continue to support the Pakistani Government. I can’t say at this point that the fact that they have this current political situation necessarily distracts them from what they’re – what else they’re doing.
QUESTION: Will you continue –
QUESTION: A follow-up to that. You’re asking the Pakistani Government to do things that are not necessarily very popular in Pakistan. One of them is the fight against the militants, which – in the drone attacks, which are not particularly popular. Others are the kinds of economic reforms and particularly tax reforms that they would need to take to keep to their IMF commitments. Having a Pakistani Government that appears to be tottering, given that two of its minority coalition partners have bolted from the federal government, surely doesn’t make it any easier to win public support for some of the policies that the United States would like to see Pakistan take, both in terms of fighting the militants, as Kami said, or on the economic front.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would say, Arshad, that these are decisions for the government to make, and these are decisions that are in the long-term interest of Pakistan. So we’re not asking Pakistan to do something that we do not feel is in Pakistan’s interest. Fighting extremists within its borders that is a threat to Pakistani civil society is definitely in Pakistan’s interest. Getting its financial house in order is definitely in Pakistan’s interest. Building and expanding the capacity of civilian-led government in Pakistan is definitely in Pakistan’s interest. But the government obviously has – is confronting a challenge within its coalition. That – these things happen in parliamentary systems all the time.
QUESTION: And you don’t think that makes it harder for them to do those three things that you’ve just described as being in their interest – fighting extremism, pursuing economic –
MR. CROWLEY: No, we are going to encourage – we are going to continue to work with the Pakistani Government and provide the support that we’ve outlined to help expand its capacity, address the challenge inside its borders, and help put its finances on more solid footing.
QUESTION: But you’re not concerned that this is a distraction?
MR. CROWLEY: The –
QUESTION: For them?
MR. CROWLEY: By every indication the government is taking steps to deal with this political situation. This is how coalition governments handle these issues all over the world.
QUESTION: So you see it as a good thing and normal part of the political process –
MR. CROWLEY: No, it –
QUESTION: -- and not something that’s going – that could possibly have any impact at all on what you hope to – what Pakistan’s going to do?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, thank you very much, Matthew. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, I mean, it just seems a little bit bizarre to me that –
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no, again –
QUESTION: -- you’re saying that you have absolutely no opinion on what – no concern at all when the government is in crisis and this is your top – you need this government, you need this country as an ally.
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to work closely with this government on the issues that we’ve outlined as part of our strategic partnership.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I don’t understand how – it doesn’t make any sense for you not to be concerned about something like this.
QUESTION: Is that what Ambassador Haqqani –
QUESTION: If you weren’t concerned, I mean, that’s kind of a – it would appear that that’s some kind of a dereliction of duty if you didn’t have any concerns. I mean, if you just think that it’s oh this is great – wonderful, look at how politics is playing itself out in Pakistan, I mean, that just – that doesn’t seem to flow.
MR. CROWLEY: We understand that the government is dealing with a political challenge within its coalition. We’re watching it closely, but meanwhile we’re focused on our long-term partnership with Pakistan.
QUESTION: Your statement is exactly the same as the Pakistani military which says there is no problem. So will you be supporting the Pakistani military if it steps in to keep the house in order?
MR. CROWLEY: Tajinder, now you’re – that’s a great lead.
QUESTION: No, no. They had a statement that there is no problem, and you are giving a statement there is no problem.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m certainly not going there.
QUESTION: P.J., just to follow – let’s see – you had – you have had many, many challenges as far as Pakistan-U.S. relations were concerned – drones and also terrorism and many other problems in U.S. image. What I’m asking is, as far as recent development in Pakistan is concerned, have you, anybody from this building or from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad spoken with the current government or the opposition or any parties in Pakistan?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) all those conversations going back --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Ambassador Munter engages the government on a daily basis. He and his staff engage opposition on a regular basis. I have no reason to think that they haven’t done so today, just as they would any other day.
QUESTION: Thank you. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is in town this week. He is invited by Secretary Clinton. Can you give us some details on his visit, the purpose, and when are they meeting? And also, on North Korea, like we just said, suddenly things seem to calm down over there. Do you think China has played a key role in helping stabilizing the situation over there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Foreign Minister Yang is here. He will meet with Secretary Clinton on Wednesday. I’m confident that North Korea will be among the topics discussed as – both here and in Beijing, where Ambassador Bosworth will be later this week. I would say among the topics to be discussed on Wednesday would be ongoing plans for the state visit by Hu Jintao later this month. But there’s a range of issues that I’m sure they will discuss during their time together.
QUESTION: A follow-up – yeah, I noticed that the Japanese foreign minister will come to this town the day after tomorrow. Is it just a coincidence, or is there a special arrangement for the three sides to brief each other – something important?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s see, Foreign Minister Maehara will be here on Thursday to meet Secretary Clinton. This has been a visit that we have been talking to the Japanese Government with for a number of weeks. So I would say it’s more coincidental than anything else.
QUESTION: Another question: This afternoon, the Deputy Secretary Steinberg will go to the White House to participate in a meeting over there. Will they talk about preparation for the Chinese President Hu’s visit to the United States?
MR. CROWLEY: I actually don’t know what – I do know there’s a meeting on the schedule. I just don’t know what topic.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I promised Eli.
QUESTION: Thank you. On Russia, it appears the Russians have ended their policy of allowing these protests on the 31st of every other month with the arrest over the weekend of Boris Nemtsov. Can you say what you think this means in the context of the reset, given that this arrest and the Khodorkovsky sentencing happened less than two weeks after the Senate ratified the START Treaty?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we were pleased (inaudible) that Moscow authorities had reversed their previous policy and decided to allow peaceful demonstrations. So we regret that these arrests have taken place, both in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We reiterate our – the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedom of expression and assembly – they’re enshrined in the Russian constitution – as well as international agreements that Russia has signed.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you talk about these arrests in the context of the reset? I mean, what does it say about the reset, that after the ratification of the treaty that was the centerpiece of the reset, there are these arrests which --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- appear pretty provocative?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, these arrests run counter to our shared commitments to international norms and our common interests in fostering modernization.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, in contrary to your shared – they don’t sound very – like shared commitments.
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, this is something that we --
QUESTION: Do you still think they are shared --
MR. CROWLEY: -- are watching closely. We think that Russia has had the right agenda in terms of modernization, and we regret that these actions seem contrary to statements that President Medvedev in particular has made.
QUESTION: Okay. One more, one more on this and then I’ll stop. Is the treatment of Russia’s democratic opposition part of the reset? Is that one of the topics that you’d like to see reset?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we hope for Russia the same which we hope for many countries – to have a vibrant and open political process.
QUESTION: Especially Pakistan.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you, Matthew. So we believe it is in Russia’s interest to promote freedom of expression and, as we noted, this is something that Russian leaders have endorsed publicly, but now they need to follow through and – but these kinds of arrests, we think, are contrary not only to commitments that Russia has made, but also to Russia’s long-term interest.
QUESTION: So is it – sorry, so are the arrests a – in some ways a demerit or taking away from the reset?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the reset is pursuing our shared interests. And certainly, developing and promoting civil society within Russia, which includes not only the freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, but also freedom of the press – we’ve not hesitated to state our concerns about attacks on Russian journalists and – but these are things that, at the federal level, Russia has to follow through and make sure that actions locally are consistent with Russia’s long-term national policies.
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: Cote d'Ivoire.
QUESTION: Where are we? It was looking very, very bad. What’s the latest in the view of the United States?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are in touch with the leaders of ECOWAS. They’re in Abidjan today. The presidents – the leaders of Nigeria, Benin, and Sierra Leone and I think the prime minister of Kenya also there. And we hope that President Gbagbo will listen intently to the message that he needs to step down. So far he hasn’t, but we certainly endorse what ECOWAS is trying to do today.
QUESTION: What’s the Secretary specifically doing on this?
MR. CROWLEY: We remain in touch with officials in the region. The African Union – I believe Prime Minister Odinga is there representing the AU. We continue to evaluate what’s happening on the ground. We evaluate the safety and security of our Embassy. We’ve winnowed down the number of officials at our Embassy, but we’re in touch with a range of governments and we continue to have a unified message to President Gbagbo that his time has come.
QUESTION: Has your ambassador had any luck yet in getting to see the president?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: And is that because – have they offered an explanation as to why the president cannot or will not meet with the ambassador?
MR. CROWLEY: I would infer that it’s because President Gbagbo doesn’t want to listen to good advice.
QUESTION: Just one question. (Inaudible.) Again, Happy New Year. My question is on as we enter 2011, 2010 was a year of tensions, distrust, including WikiLeaks and also rise in terrorism around the globe. What is the --
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, this is a global question or – tension in a particular part of the world?
QUESTION: It’s up to you how do you want to answer, P.J., now. How do we see 2011 according to you and --
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I would love to say that on December 31st we had these problems and these tensions and on January 1st they all melted away. We are dealing with ongoing and complex challenges. We talked about the Middle East today. This is a challenge that we’ve been addressing for decades. We talked about North Korea. This is a challenge that we’ve been dealing with for decades. I think we are determined to move ahead on these challenges.
I think maybe if there’s a – room for some hope, you do look at a situation like Sudan. We’re not out of the woods by a long shot, but we’ve come a long way over the past six months and we’re on the cusp of a very historic decision by the people of South Sudan. We continue to work for full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. So it continues to underscore what we, the United States, are trying to do in easing these tensions wherever they may exist around the world.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Afghanistan – we now have a full complement of military forces on the ground joined by a very significant number of civilians who are pursuing the President’s strategy. Last month, the President finished our evaluation of our strategy. Back in November, we had a strong affirmation of that strategy in Lisbon. We continue to engage the Afghan Government. But as we’ve recognized in terms of our approach, it’s got to be a regional approach which includes from Pakistan to India to other countries, including Iran, that will have an influence in the events that unfold in 2011 and beyond.
MR. CROWLEY: I am sure there will be more than just those two, but I’ll see if we can get you a list of the delegation.
QUESTION: Anything on Ambassador Ford? Do we know (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there were, during the – late last year, the President announced recess appointments, which include Robert Ford, Matt Bryza, Frank Ricciardone – and I’m forgetting one. Oh, Norm Eisen for the Czech Republic. They – I’m not aware that they’ve been sworn in yet, but I think they’ll be going through some consultations here at the State Department in the next couple of weeks before they deploy to post.
QUESTION: So we’re looking at (inaudible) within the next two weeks or three weeks (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: I would expect sometime --
QUESTION: Assuming it’s --
MR. CROWLEY: Sometime this month, Robert Ford, for example, will arrive in Damascus.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Stand by. Well, the United States deeply regrets the Government of Belarus’ decision to terminate the Mission of the OSCE Office in Minsk. It was founded to assist the Belarusian Government in institution building, promoting the rule of law, and encouraging outreach to civil society. And the mandate of that mission is not completed, as the OSCE’s critical assessment of the presidential elections indicates. So unfortunately, this is a step backwards in the development of democratic government and respect for human rights in Belarus.
QUESTION: Staying in Europe, is there anything on the agenda to meet with Hungary because it’s taking over the EU presidency?
MR. CROWLEY: Not in the immediate term, no.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold one. Last one.
QUESTION: P.J., South Korean Lee Myung-bak said he wants to denuclearize North Korea this --
MR. CROWLEY: He wants to?
QUESTION: Denuclearize North Korea this year through Six-Party Talks --
MR. CROWLEY: We agree with that.
QUESTION: -- and bilateral talks. So do you have any comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, that is fundamental to a change in the relationship that North Korea has with the rest of the world. It has made a commitment to denuclearize, and we want to see North Korea follow through on those promises.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:17 p.m.)
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