1:45 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A few things to mention before taking your questions.
We are looking forward to the arrival later today of President Hu Jintao and his delegation. They arrive this afternoon and will be greeted at Andrews by Vice President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and our Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Capricia Marshall. And tonight, the President will host a small, private dinner for President Hu at the White House. Secretary Clinton will attend that dinner. And then, of course, tomorrow begin the formal festivities, including the arrival ceremony, bilateral meetings, a press event, and a meeting with U.S. and Chinese business leaders and CEOs, and a joint press conference.
Turning to Tunisia, Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy has approved the authorized departure of dependents from Tunisia. Our U.S. citizens abroad are, of course, of paramount concern to us, their security, and their personal safety. And today, there was a flight between Tunis and Rabat. I think, roughly 70 people, including official and private passengers, were on board this flight.
This is a period of significant transition for Tunisia. We hope the interim government takes this opportunity to chart a course for their country that provides for inclusion of all peaceful and democratic forces in the political process, through open and fair elections, and by investigating the abuses of the past. We see this as a moment in time and an important opportunity for the government to meet the aspirations and demands of the Tunisian people. This includes experiencing an end to violence by security forces against nonviolent civilians, truly free and fair elections, respect for basic human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, and an accountable, transparent, just government.
QUESTION: May I ask two things real quickly on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Just on the authorized departure, wasn’t that approved on Sunday?
MR. CROWLEY: There was a flight – just – but the flight, the first flight, was today.
QUESTION: And those 70 people were all Americans?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe so. Yes. Well, I mean there were – I believe there were 70 Americans on board. Whether there were other nationalities, I can’t say. But --
QUESTION: And official and private – in other words these are – these would not necessarily just be --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – as we – as you know, we have issued a Travel Warning for Tunisia, so we weren’t ruling out that if there was a U.S. citizen there, a private citizen, they could catch a ride on this flight.
QUESTION: Does this reflect concern, P.J., that some of this anger is going to be redirected at Americans or --
MR. CROWLEY: Not necessarily. It’s just a prudent step. Again, it’s an authorized departure, which means dependents of our personnel had the option of departing. The – there is a curfew present on the ground, so – but these were individual decisions to make. No, the situation on the ground has improved somewhat over the last couple of days. That said, obviously, it’s a very fluid situation in terms of the formation of this national unity government. We understand that there’s some political jockeying underway, but we hope that there will be a focus on moving ahead in the coming weeks and months towards free and fair elections.
Turning to Sudan, the United States congratulates the people of Sudan on the successful completion of polling in the South Sudan Referendum. This is a major benchmark in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended decades of suffering and conflict in Sudan. Voter turnout was high, and polling took place in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Though the official results probably will not be known for – until sometime in February, independent observers have stated they believe that the referendum’s results will be credible and will reflect the will of the people.
Both Northern and Southern leaders have stated that they will respect the outcome of the referendum and have demonstrated that they take seriously their responsibilities under the 2005 Peace Accord. We applaud their efforts to create conditions that allowed voters to express their will without fear, intimidation, or coercion and urge them to live up to their pledge to respect the outcome of the referendum.
Regardless of the outcome, the United States hopes that the parties will continue to channel the same spirit of cooperation that made the referendum possible as they work to reach agreement on arrangements that will define their future relationship. As you heard last week from Assistant Secretary Carson and Ambassador Lyman, much work remains to be done. Post-referendum issues should be resolved by July of next year. These include a way forward on the Abyei region, resource sharing, demarcating a common border, and establishing criteria for citizenship, among others.
Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon will travel this week to Nicosia, Cyprus – timing is everything – where he’ll meet with President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervish Eroglu and their advisors. He will also meet with the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alexander Downer.
QUESTION: Timing is everything? I mean, just because of the bad weather here?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Is that – okay. Cyprus is nice this time of year, I assume?
MR. CROWLEY: I think so. It’s probably nicer than an ice storm in Washington, DC.
QUESTION: Let’s see, where to begin? There are so many places. I’ll – can I start with the Middle East and the Palestinians talking about this resolution that they want to put into the Security Council this week which would condemn Israeli settlement activity. At the same time, they’re continuing their push to get countries to recognize their independence, even without a negotiated settlement. They raised the flag at their mission downtown here today, this morning.
MR. CROWLEY: Which, on that particular point, we had agreed months ago, but it doesn’t change their status in any way.
QUESTION: Well, no, but their status changed in August.
MR. CROWLEY: No, but the granting permission to raise the flag –
QUESTION: Well, that’s actually part of my question.
MR. CROWLEY: -- (inaudible) does not change their fundamental status of their diplomatic mission here in the United States.
QUESTION: No --
QUESTION: But did you approve their – the status of the –
QUESTION: Well, hold on a second. Hold on a second. The flag issue –
MR. CROWLEY: We digress.
QUESTION: -- would be a sideshow. I want to know what you’re going to do about this resolution at the UN and I want to know if you’re going to continue to oppose or lobby governments not to do what the Palestinians want, which is to recognize them as independent.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue to be in conversation with a range of countries on this issue. Our view hasn’t changed. We’ve made that clear in our discussions with the Palestinians and others. We do not think that New York or the UN Security Council is the right forum for this issue, and we’ll continue to make that case.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
QUESTION: Okay. Well, hold on. What does that mean? If you don’t think that New York or the Security Council is the right venue, that means that you will veto a resolution if it’s brought to the Council?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what happens from this point forward.
QUESTION: Well, are you trying to keep – prevent them from, or are you trying to dissuade them from – and their allies from bringing this to the Council?
MR. CROWLEY: We have made clear that we do not think that this matter should be brought before the Security Council.
QUESTION: And when you do that, what do you tell them if it – what does that mean, exactly?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, what that means is that we believe that –
QUESTION: Are you going to veto it if it comes up?
MR. CROWLEY: -- these issues should be resolved through the ongoing process and through direct negotiations. That is our position. We’ve made that position clear to those who have an interest in this issue. But again, I’m not going to speculate on what will happen in the coming days.
QUESTION: All right. Well, as I understand it, the resolution merely restates what has been U.S. policy for some time, that – basically, it criticizes settlement activity.
MR. CROWLEY: And again –
QUESTION: Why is it not – why are you opposed to the UN adopting a resolution that isn’t – that supports existing U.S. policy?
MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the best path forward is through the ongoing effort that gets the parties into direct negotiations, resolves the issues through a framework agreement, and ends the conflict once and for all.
QUESTION: So it’s not the contents that you’re opposed to; it’s simply the idea of a resolution.
MR. CROWLEY: We do not think that the UN Security Council is the best place to address these issues.
QUESTION: Can I ask why? Because, I mean, the UN is where Israel was created, basically. Why is the UN not the place to deal with these issues?
MR. CROWLEY: These are complex issues, and we think they’re best resolved through direct negotiations, not through the unilateral declarations, even if those unilateral declarations come in the form of a multilateral setting.
QUESTION: Plus, it undermines your own efforts. I mean, isn’t that the real reason, that it undermines your own peacemaking efforts?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we do not believe that this is a – would be a productive step.
QUESTION: But the peace process is not working, and your efforts didn’t achieve anything until now.
MR. CROWLEY: Michel, you’re right; as of this moment today, we do not have a framework agreement. That does not necessarily say that one is – that is not a – that’s an achievable task, in our view. And that remains something that we’re actively engaged in.
QUESTION: Are you contemplating any other – do you have any other levers at your disposal to persuade the Palestinians not to move ahead of these two tracks that you’re – you’re saying constantly that you don’t want them to do it, but they’re forging ahead anyway. What can the U.S. do in this situation?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue to engage the relevant actors. We do not think this would be a productive step.
QUESTION: Can you say exactly what will you think would be a productive step?
MR. CROWLEY: We believe the parties ultimately need to – in order to reach a framework agreement, they need to get back into direct negotiations, and we’re working to create the conditions that allows that to happen.
QUESTION: But that’s been going on for the past two years.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.
QUESTION: And if you’re talking about productive steps –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s been going on for longer than that if – (laughter).
QUESTION: Well, this Administration, it’s been going on for the last two years. And if you’re talking about productive steps, certainly that process hasn’t produced anything.
QUESTION: Well, but I mean –
QUESTION: Why not –
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, Matt, you’re –
QUESTION: I guess the fundamental question is –
MR. CROWLEY: You’re leading to a kind of a glass half full, glass half empty kind of discussion.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, except that the glass doesn’t have any water in it at all. (Laughter.) It’s not half full or half empty. It’s completely empty. And I don’t really understand why it is that you would be opposed to a resolution that simply restates what U.S. policy has been for a long time. I mean –
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not going to speculate. We’ve made our position clear. We continue to make our position clear. I’m not going to speculate on what happens going forward.
QUESTION: Well, you’ve stated the policy, but the position’s not clear, because – do you think that settlements are illegal or not? And if they’re illegal when you say them from the podium, then why shouldn’t they be illegal according to UN resolutions, which you’ve acknowledged all along? Like why can’t you just restate what you’ve been –
MR. CROWLEY: No, no. Our position on settlements is well known.
QUESTION: Is that they’re illegal.
MR. CROWLEY: It hasn’t changed. You’re talking about is this a prospective step that moves the process forward? In our view, it would not be.
QUESTION: Well, do you think that the building of settlements is a productive step that moves the process forward?
MR. CROWLEY: We believe that unilateral actions on all sides are not productive.
QUESTION: But you seem to think it’s okay – well, I mean, you don’t like it but there don’t seem to – you don’t – there’s nothing that you prevent – you don’t do anything to prevent the Israelis from continuing to build settlements. I mean, they continue to build them.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I can continue to state our position, but I’m not going to speculate on what happens in the coming days.
QUESTION: Can I have a –
MR. CROWLEY: Haiti.
QUESTION: Do you think Duvalier should be arrested or removed from the country? I mean, what’s your position of him being there? And did you know in advance that he was going?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we were informed about an hour before the point that he landed this weekend. If I look at the list of challenges that Haiti faces today, having a former dictator return to Haiti just adds to Haiti’s ongoing burden. But as to his status in the country and what happens, this is a matter for the Government of Haiti and the people of Haiti.
QUESTION: What’s –
QUESTION: Who informed you an hour before?
MR. CROWLEY: The French Government.
QUESTION: Did you –
MR. CROWLEY: Which, as I understand it, it was when they first learned that he was on his way to Haiti.
QUESTION: So you’re not – as you understand it, the French knew an hour before he landed that he was on his way? Wasn’t he flying on an Air France jet?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, you’re talking about the government. We were given a heads up roughly an hour before he landed.
QUESTION: Do you think that that was an appropriate amount of time, considering the investment that you’ve made in Haiti?
MR. CROWLEY: Again –
QUESTION: And the fact that you were the ones –
MR. CROWLEY: All I can tell you is we were –
QUESTION: -- who took him out of the country in the first place?
MR. CROWLEY: We were surprised and not involved, and what happens at this point is up to the Government of Haiti.
QUESTION: Have you made any effort to get into direct contact with him or his –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that anyone from our post has been in contact with Mr. Duvalier.
QUESTION: What’s your understanding of what he’s doing there?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a very good question.
QUESTION: There’s got to be some, I mean, analysts in the State Department who are saying –
MR. CROWLEY: All I can tell you, and just repeat, we were not consulted nor involved in his return to Haiti.
QUESTION: Fine, but you didn’t give any thought to whether he would return at all? I mean, you haven’t been looking at this? In 2006, you made a big effort, which was – there were examples in WikiLeak cables – but I remember at the time that the State Department specifically said that his return would not be productive. And so with all the turmoil –
MR. CROWLEY: And I’m not –
QUESTION: -- that was going on in the election right now, you didn’t think in your wildest dreams that perhaps he would return?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it – you’re asking two different questions. We are obviously looking at this very closely. This is a very –
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you’re looking at it very closely, but I didn’t think there was (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: You asked a question. Now, it’s my – you asked a – you want to ask another question?
MR. CROWLEY: All right. I’ll wait.
QUESTION: No, go ahead. Please.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, fine. You basically asked – we’ve been watching this situation very closely. When you think about the unpredictable aspect of his return, the delicate situation that Haiti faces, the many challenges that Haiti faces in terms of public health, in terms of reconstruction, in terms of the ongoing election process, we were surprised at his return, but we do not necessarily view this as being particularly useful at this time. But –
QUESTION: No, I understand. You just said that, though.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: But what I’m asking is: How could you be – I just – I’m surprised that you’re surprised, because you’ve been looking at Aristide’s possible return. You’ve been kind of warning him not to go. There is a precedent for him wanting to return. Like I said, in 2006, he was looking to come back and you made a lot of effort for him not to come back. So I just don’t understand why this would, like, catch you completely off guard that this was not something that you had been looking into, given the volatile political situation in the country and the history for dictators wanting to return to Haiti.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, let me underscore it. What you’re asking is: Did we know in advance he was coming back to –
QUESTION: I didn’t ask if you knew in advance; I asked you why didn’t you look into it before.
MR. CROWLEY: Our focus is on trying to help Haiti work through the current electoral situation, helping Haiti to recover and rebuild; that is our focus. I guess I’m simply saying, did we know in advance that he was coming back? The answer is no.
QUESTION: Given that he’s already there –
QUESTION: Did you have any discussions –
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Hold on.
QUESTION: Given that he’s already there, what’s your counsel to the Government of Haiti now about possibly prosecuting him? I mean, wouldn’t that further inflame the situation? Are you saying that perhaps it should –
MR. CROWLEY: Again, what happens at this point – today, there is a meeting, I believe, ongoing between government officials, legal officials and Mr. Duvalier. What happens at this point forward is a matter for the people of Haiti. This is not – this is their concern, not ours.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that any further – any action against him could further inflame the situation? Is that it? Is that –
MR. CROWLEY: Of course. The fact that he arrives in the middle of a very difficult and delicate situation in terms – as the OAS has provided its analysis of the first round of elections and the government itself has to determine what to do about the ongoing election process, this is a – one more complication in an already challenging situation for Haiti.
QUESTION: Did the State Department have any discussions with the Preval government just before his arrest – Duvalier’s arrest?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – I don’t know.
QUESTION: Now, that the precedent has been set, would you object to Aristide also coming back to Haiti?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we are focused on the many challenges that Haiti currently faces from public health to reconstruction to an ongoing election process. Haiti does not need, at this point, any more burdens.
QUESTION: But with so much U.S. aid money going down there, you say that, like, these returns could just inflame an already complicated situation how? I mean, do you think Duvalier has the capability or the ability to destabilize things even further? In what way?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, he’s an historical figure. He has been a divisive figure in Haiti’s past. He is – has a track record of a repression of the Haitian people. So there are probably many, many views of Mr. Duvalier. Again, our focus right now is how do you – how does Haiti move forward with the ongoing election process? What’s critically important to Haiti’s future is the development or the emergence of a strong, credible, legitimate government that can meet the needs of Haiti’s people and help Haiti move forward and rebuild and recover. That is our focus, and we don’t believe at this point Haiti needs any more distractions.
QUESTION: Given the fact that you said sometimes that his presence just provides more complication in a tough situation already, what was your reaction when you saw the reports on the ground that were people who were actually supporting him, outside his hotel? And our reporters on the ground are saying that when they took him away, reportedly arrested him, that people were chanting in support of him.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, as I just said a moment ago, there are a number of – I’m sure a range of views of Duvalier and his record, it’s not for us to recount it here. And what happens at this point is really up to the Haitian Government. Our focus right now is to help Haiti through this delicate period, get a – have a new government emerge that is credible enough and legitimate enough and viewed positively in the eyes of the Haitian people so that the country, with international support including the United States, can move ahead with the ongoing efforts to rebuild Haiti.
QUESTION: President Hu’s visit? Tomorrow, Vice President Biden is hosting a luncheon here in the State Department. Can you give us some more details on that?
QUESTION: And you just mentioned --
MR. CROWLEY: I think it will be sometime mid-afternoon tomorrow.
QUESTION: Okay. And you just mentioned that Secretary Clinton is going to the dinner tonight, hosted by the President. Is – by chance, do you know if President Clinton is joining her?
MR. CROWLEY: No.
QUESTION: And is there going to be a joint --
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, no. No. I’m not aware that President --
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MR. CROWLEY: I don't believe – in fact, President Clinton, as far as I know, is not attending the dinner tonight.
QUESTION: And is there going to be a joint statement? Is that confirmed between --
MR. CROWLEY: I think the two sides are working on a joint statement, yes.
QUESTION: P.J., returning to Tunisia for just a minute, are you concerned that the authorities there seem to be having difficulty forming a coalition government? People are quitting, a lot of turmoil. And additionally, is there any worry here about the so-called contagion effect? There have been incidents of self immolations in other countries. Are you worried about this Tunisia turmoil possibly spreading across North Africa?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s take those – I think there are at least three things I heard from you. I don't think it’s surprising that with this transition under way there’s some political jockeying that’s going on. Clearly, the government has to take steps to meet the aspirations of the Tunisian people. The Tunisian people are making their views clear in what they want to see the interim government do and what they want to see in terms of a free, fair, and credible election process.
The interim government is moving in that direction. The steps that it has taken so far are steps in the right direction, but clearly a lot needs to be done. We want to see an open process, significant dialogue between the government and significant groups that want to play a role in Tunisia’s future.
As to – obviously, we have concern when people take their own lives while making significant political statements, that it underscores what the Secretary’s message to the region was last week. There is this pent-up desire for reform in the region. It is important for governments to listen to their people and it’s important for governments to respond to their people. We want to see political reform occur. Governments are hard pressed, obviously, to create political, social, and economic opportunity for their people. And we are a partner in this process, but clearly it is important for governments to listen to their people and to take affirmative steps to meet the aspirations – respond to the aspirations of their people.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. have any discussions with the toppled president after he left?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware we’ve had any contact with him since he left.
QUESTION: And one more on – Libya is the only country that declared publicly continued support for President Zine el-Abidine, and some Tunisians are worried --
MR. CROWLEY: Support for?
QUESTION: The toppled president of Tunisia. And some Tunisians are worried that Libya may interfere within the unrest, to continue to unrest in support of the toppled president. Are you concerned about this?
MR. CROWLEY: I think the interim government in Tunisia is moving ahead. They have taken some steps to begin the process of reform. They’ve – they’re opening up space for the media to actually report on what’s going on. They have brought some opposition leaders into the government. Obviously, there’s a debate going on as to whether more needs to be done. There is a process underway inside Tunisia, and we will be watching and seeing – and finding – looking to see if there are ways in which we can provide support.
QUESTION: This government is part of Ben Ali’s regime to – the prime minister was during Ben Ali’s regime and the six ministers. How do you view --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean there is change under way. That change has to broaden, deepen. And the government needs to find ways to engage elements of Tunisian society and respond to what it hears.
QUESTION: I have a couple of issues related to consular affairs. Can you talk about an American citizen from Virginia that was in Kuwait? He was denied – he was basically – he was in Kuwait for a specific period of time and then was abducted by the Kuwaitis, was taken – he claims – his lawyer claims that he was beaten and then taken to the airport to board a plane back to the U.S., at which point he was denied – I guess he wasn’t allowed to get on the plane bound for the U.S. The lawyer is claiming that the Americans have been in kind of cahoots with the Kuwaitis in terms of his detention and are thwarting his deportation back to the United States, basically sending him into exile. Do you have anything on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, all I can really tell you, because we do not have a Privacy Act Waiver, is that we are providing him consular access. Our last access was late last year, and we are committed to make sure that he has fair and humane treatment while in custody.
QUESTION: Are you providing him consular access or are you providing him FBI interrogation? I mean, which is it? Because he claims that --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, if you’ve got questions about the FBI, I’d defer to the FBI. We are doing what we do for any U.S. citizen anywhere in the world. If they’re in custody, we visit them on a regular basis. We make sure that they’re being well treated.
QUESTION: Well, he claims that he’s in custody because of information that you provided the Kuwaiti Government.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, if you’ve got those kinds of questions, I would direct them to other agencies besides this one.
QUESTION: So it is not – it would not be accurate to say that you’re sending a U.S. citizen into exile by denying him entry back into the United States?
MR. CROWLEY: No. What I’m saying is that we, the Department of State, have been in touch with him. We’re following his case. We’ve been in touch with him. We believe he is being well treated, and --
QUESTION: Actually, he’s – if I can correct you, he’s not in detention anymore.
MR. CROWLEY: I – look, I --
QUESTION: He was brought to the airport yesterday by the Kuwaitis, and allegedly, he was not able to board a flight for the United States because the U.S. said they will not accept him back --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. And that’s a question – if it’s a matter of whether he’s permitted to board a flight, that’s a matter to ask the TSA.
QUESTION: Okay. I have an equally ridiculous-sounding one. Apparently, there’s a British boy, a nine-year-old boy, whose grandparents wanted to take him on a surprise trip to Disneyland. And when they took him to the airport to surprise him, they were – or I guess when they took his passport to get his visa or something, it was –
MR. CROWLEY: Airport where?
QUESTION: Sorry, in Britain. He’s not able to get a visa to come to the United States, because allegedly, the U.S. Embassy claims that he doesn’t have a demonstration of, kind of, ties with the U.S. and they think that he would kind of seek asylum here. So are you – I mean, I understand –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with –
QUESTION: Could you look into that, please?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, of course, visa decisions are confidential. So I will look into it, but there may or may not be a whole lot that we could say.
QUESTION: It does sound a little bit ridiculous that a nine-year-old boy can’t come – that is basically in school and had a letter from his teachers that he would be returning back to school in Britain, wouldn’t – able to come to the United States to visit Disney World because he – because there is some fear that he wouldn’t go back when there is demonstration that he is.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that, but as you know – let me speak, broadly speaking, we are required to enforce the law in terms of judgments on visa applications, and that is one of the fundamental aspects enshrined in law, that in granting a visa to a foreign citizen, we have to be confident that that foreign citizen will meet the terms of that visa.
QUESTION: Both his grandparents apparently –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m just saying I’m –
QUESTION: -- did provide documentation that he’d be able to –
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to second guess the judgment of any consular officer, but –
QUESTION: Okay, well if you could take the question?
MR. CROWLEY: -- I will see what – if there’s anything that we can say about that.
QUESTION: Can a nine-year-old get a visa to come to the States without being accompanied by someone?
QUESTION: The grandparents were going to bring him as a surprise trip for his ninth birthday.
QUESTION: I’m asking P.J.
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I may or may not be able to comment.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Lebanon, France has called for the creation of an international contact group on Lebanon. The U.S. is one of six countries that would participate in this group. Have you agreed, first, to be part of this group? And when the first meeting would be held?
MR. CROWLEY: We are supporting this process. But as to when diplomats get together, I can’t project at this point.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Lebanon just for a second?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: I realize the President and the Secretary put out statements yesterday after the indictments were submitted, but I’m just wondering what you make of the current – are you satisfied that your appeals for calm have gone – have been heeded? Do you still have concerns that – of more rupture in Lebanese – the fabric of Lebanese society because of the indictment?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we note that – we understand that this process is moving forward. There are judgments that are still under seal, but that – we do have ongoing concerns that various elements within Lebanon – both inside Lebanon and outside Lebanon – will continue to try to politicize this process. We continue to support Lebanon; we continue to support the work of that tribunal.
QUESTION: All right. What do you make of Nasrallah’s defense of Hezbollah and its allies pulling out of government saying that it was done peacefully; it was purely a political move?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the real question is what its purpose – I don’t think that we challenge that in a parliamentary system, various ministers can either support or oppose a sitting government. That’s not the issue. The issue really is what is the purpose – what is the intent of these actions and whose agenda are they actually serving. Our focus is on a sovereign, independent Lebanon, and we would hope that people should continue to focus on and support the needs of the Lebanese people at this time and not any outside agendas.
QUESTION: Right. But the Secretary said last week that this was a move intended to subvert justice. You’re calling into question whose agenda these ministers are acting on, and I’m –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as the –
QUESTION: My question is: Why does it matter?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as the Secretary said –
QUESTION: I mean, you support – particularly, we had this discussion about Pakistan a week or so ago where you took no position and talked about how – this being a vibrant demonstration of Pakistan’s political – of democracy and political freedom. Now, if Hezbollah, for whatever reason, wants to pull out of the government, why criticize it?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the --
QUESTION: Why say it’s an attempt to subvert justice?
MR. CROWLEY: Our concern is that these actions are intended to force Lebanon to choose between justice and security. Now, that’s a false choice. As we said, there has been a political assassination. That assassination merits investigation and, where appropriate, indictment and prosecution. That is what the tribunal is doing. Its work should continue without interference.
QUESTION: After the arrival of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, have you talked to the Syrians about the situation in Lebanon, about – and about the contact group?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are engaged with a variety of countries that have been proposed for participation in this contact group process. Mr. Ford has arrived in Damascus. I’m not sure that he has, as yet, presented his credentials. Ergo, I’m not sure that he has been engaged in any discussions. But we continue to have discussions with the Syrian Government regarding Lebanon, yes.
QUESTION: But Syria has refused the contact group?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we – Syria has been involved in Lebanon. It has an interest in Lebanon. We have been in touch with the Syrian Government and are encouraging Syria and other countries to respect the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon.
QUESTION: Will the discussions with President Hu Jintao touch upon China’s plans to transfer civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan?
MR. CROWLEY: I am confident that we will talk about nuclear issues, nonproliferation concerns with China. As a member of the UN Security Council, these issues come before the council on a regular basis. I’m confident that we’ll talk about North Korea and Iran. I’m not ruling out a broader discussion, but I just can’t predict at this point.
QUESTION: Regarding Tunisia, does United States – will support any new government for Tunisia?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Does – United States will support any new government in Tunisia?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, regarding Tunisia, whatever happens there, the emergence of a government, that’s up to the people of Tunisia who want to see a free, fair, open, transparent, political process. But the choice of who governs Tunisia in the future belongs to the people of Tunisia.
QUESTION: Okay. Today, the Moroccan and the Polisario, they will attend a negotiation regarding the Moroccan Sahara. So they announced that this is the – I think the first round of negotiations, but they didn’t get to have any results. So doesn’t this (inaudible) will deal with them after (inaudible) results? Or if you have any practical message to do – two sides, Moroccan and Polisario?
QUESTION: New subject. Will the Secretary be visiting Greece and Turkey the beginning of February and -- after the Munich Security Conference, and do you have dates on that?
MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary does have some upcoming travel. Let’s wait for a formal announcement.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what is the reason for the visit of Mr. Gordon to Cyprus? And another question on Cyprus. As you know, the Secretary General to the United Nations moved their talks from Nicosia to Geneva. Can you tell us if the United States is going to send a coordinator to participate in these talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me take the second question. We are focused on the situation in Cyprus. We’ve been engaged since the Obama Administration came to office on this. We’ve had discussions here in Washington. But this was a good time for Assistant Secretary Gordon to see a situation on the ground first hand.
QUESTION: P.J., the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said North Korea’s uranium enrichment program should be discussed at the UN Security Council. So what is your position on that? Do you think that will be discussed between – by President Obama and --
MR. CROWLEY: Start again. I’m sorry. Start again.
QUESTION: The South Korean President Myung-bak said that North Korea’s uranium enrichment program should be discussed at the UN Security Council.
MR. CROWLEY: So we have ongoing concerns about what is happening inside North Korea. We’ve brought these issues before the UN Security Council before, not ruling out that we will bring these discussions forward again. But we have great concerns about what our delegation saw late last year, and we are involved in a broad range of discussions to determine what to do about it.
Just going back to Cyprus, Phil Gordon’s trip there is an opportunity to speak directly to the leaders of the two communities, their advisors. He will meet with UN Secretary General Special Advisor Downer and his team. But we reiterate our support for their efforts to reach a solution that will reunite the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
QUESTION: Do you have an exact date on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: The exact date he’s going is the end of the week?
MR. CROWLEY: He leaves, I believe, tonight, be there tomorrow.
MR. CROWLEY: Through the 21st.
QUESTION: The UN Security Council this morning failed to vote through approval for the new blue helmets to go to Ivory Coast reportedly because Russia didn’t like the way it was worded. What’s your view on the prospect for that? Are we going to get more peacekeepers for Ivory Coast? And is the international community or the P-5 united in what they think should be done with Ivory Coast?
MR. CROWLEY: We are in active discussion on this issue within the UN today. I think we have confidence that at the conclusion of this ongoing discussion, the Security Council will support the request for additional UN forces.
QUESTION: Are you able to say what some of the objections were?
MR. CROWLEY: Just I think there were some technical issues that are being worked through.
QUESTION: P.J., do you have anything about the Deputy Secretary Steinberg’s meeting with South Korea Ambassador Han Duk-soo today?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe that meeting will happen tomorrow.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:27 p.m.)
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