printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to the Press

Press Availability
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
New York City
September 22, 2010


(8:00 p.m. EDT)

MR. CROWLEY: Sorry for the delay. Both meetings ran a bit long. In the interest of time, let me start with the end of the day, and then if you want to follow up anything from earlier in the day, happy to go through that.

QUESTION: I’ll pause.

MR. CROWLEY: But since we saw many of you last with the briefing this afternoon with Phil Gordon, the Secretary had three bilaterals, first with Foreign Minister Mashabane of South Africa. They talked first about how to proceed on the strategic dialogue that we are building with South Africa. This was something that the two of them agreed to when the Secretary visited South Africa just over a year ago. And we are working towards bringing that process to life and making arrangements for the first strategic dialogue between South Africa and the United States, hopefully before the end of the year.

In terms of regional issues, they spent a great deal of time talking about the situation in the Congo. As those of you who were on the trip with the Secretary last year, when she left South Africa, moved north along the west coast of Africa. But one of the more dramatic stops was in eastern Congo, and she sought Minister Mashabane’s perspective on the Congo.

And they spent a great deal of time talking about Somalia. There are some high-level, significant meetings. I know Johnnie Carson will be significantly engaged tomorrow on the situation of Somalia, but just trying to understand how to best continue to support the TFG, the ongoing Africa Union mission, and sharing ideas on how to proceed to try to stabilize Somalia.

The Secretary then had a bilateral with Foreign Minister Lavrov. First they followed up on the – on some of the particular issues regarding the meetings earlier this afternoon that they both participated in, both the NATO-Russia Council meeting and also the P-5+1 meeting. In terms of bilateral – or other regional and bilateral issues, they talked about ongoing counterterrorism cooperation and how Russia and the United States can work together to help create processes through which we can increase capacity building in countries that are faced with the challenge of terrorism.

Then they went through a wide range of bilateral issues. The Secretary had their list, the foreign minister had his list, and they just went through them, which kind of underscores the breadth of our ongoing bilateral relations. But they touched on a wide range of issues ranging from trade to human rights, had a fairly detailed discussion on human rights. The Secretary expressed our concerns about both specific instances that we’ve seen recently in Russia as well as broader trends. And the foreign minister was very responsive to the concerns that she raised.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, he asked for --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: No, he did not. (Laughter.) He asked – no, quite the opposite. He asked for more information on very specific cases that we could cite and pledged to investigate them fully. So I don’t want to go into much more detail than that, but it was a very substantial part of the meeting.

And then finally, the Secretary met with First Vice President of Sudan Salva Kiir, who is also the head of the SPLM. They focused on preparations for Friday’s high-level meeting. And the Secretary sought the First Vice President’s views on how he was going to approach the meeting on Friday. They talked at length about the specific challenges that need to be resolved between now and the referendum, and then also beyond the referendum. At one point, Foreign Minister Deng Alor, who is from Abyei, spent a fair amount of time trying to help the Secretary understand the history of that issue and various steps going back to the early ‘70s of work done through the efforts of the international community, including the United States, to try to resolve the situation of Abyei, and the Secretary certainly appreciated the depth within they went into how they view issues and their pledge to engage and cooperate fully in the upcoming – in the next days and weeks and months leading up to the referenda in early January.

But let me stop there. I’ll be happy to go through other subjects, but in the interest of time, I’ll open it up.

QUESTION: Can you drive a nail into the coffin of this Haaretz story that says that U.S. and Iranian officials met today or have met in New York during this week and discussed a secret diplomatic initiative?

MR. CROWLEY: I am aware of no contacts between U.S. officials and Iranian officials here in New York. In many of the meetings that we’ve had, we obviously reflect on the work being done by the P-5+1. We once again have pledged to engage Iran if Iran is ready. We do know that there are countries that have diplomatic relations with Iran that are talking to Iran, and we are, as always, exchanging perspectives on to what extent Iran is prepared. But I’m not aware of any direct conversations.

QUESTION: So you’re not trying to set up some kind of a diplomatic – some sort of diplomatic relationship, as the story suggests?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what our focus is, as was clear through the P-5+1 statement --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me just state the obvious, that our focus right now is on the P-5+1 process and then also the Vienna Group through which Iran can engage significantly with the IAEA. When we have had meetings, as we did last October 1st, we have used those opportunities to have brief conversations with Iranian interlocutors. As we’ve said, we are open to engagement if Iran is prepared to seriously address concerns that we have about its nuclear program and a broader set of concerns. But our immediate focus is on getting Iran to agree to resume direct negotiation with the P-5+1.

QUESTION: You said there were no meetings between the United States and Iran in New York. What about meetings between the United States and Iran anyplace else in the world this week?

MR. CROWLEY: Carol – (laughter) --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, are there other (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, as you know, in different contexts we have the ability to communicate with Iran. We have had fairly well-documented exchanges of letters. So if we need to communicate with Iran, we have the ability to do so notwithstanding our lack of diplomatic relations. But again, I won’t deny that there are signals being sent and messages being sent back and forth, but I am not aware of any direct contacts between U.S. officials and Iranian officials.

QUESTION: Totally different issue. (Laughter.) Something that was asked about a couple of weeks ago about a Mexican journalist that applied for asylum in the United States based on drug violence. Apparently, that case is now (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll try to – I’ll kick – I think Mark Toner addressed that issue in some form yesterday. I’m just not up on – I’ll defer to the folks down in Washington on those kinds of institutional issues (inaudible) at the UN.

Yeah, Farah.

QUESTION: Sorry to be back on Iran but --

MR. CROWLEY: It’s okay.

QUESTION: -- apparently, Iran appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan. And there’s talk that that person would be, I don’t know, a point of engagement.

MR. CROWLEY: We are aware of that. And we do believe that when you look at the potential for constructive dialogue and even cooperation, Afghanistan is an area where Iranian and U.S. interests broadly converge. And we have had contacts in the past with Iranian officials in the context of Afghanistan. There have been some international meetings where U.S. and Iranian officials have been in the same room at the same time. And then, of course, going back to the Bonn process, Iran was very constructive in the process that led to the formation of a central government in Afghanistan. So that is a potential area of cooperation, but --

QUESTION: Well, do you think it’s a positive sign that you’ve encouraged all your allies that you work with to appoint special envoys and you’re always saying how many special envoys there are for Afghanistan and they’re always meeting. Is this a positive sign that Iran did that, and will that person be invited into the fold of special envoy meetings that you have?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not here to make any particular announcements. We are aware of Iran’s appointment and we are aware that that is an area of potential engagement and cooperation. But I’m not aware --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a good thing?

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: You can’t say Iran does anything positive?

MR. CROWLEY: No, Iran is a neighbor of Afghanistan. It obviously has an interest in a stable Afghanistan. That was the basis upon which Iran was part of the Bonn process in 2001. Just as our ambassadors in the past in Iraq have had specific meetings, this is something that does offer potential. But we’ll see where it goes.

QUESTION: But no, I’m sorry. Why can’t you say whether you think it’s a good thing or not that they appointed him?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’ve just said we’re aware that they have made an appointment and we’re aware that this is an area of potential cooperation. But just beyond that --

QUESTION: But you’re not willing to give Iran any kind of praise or credit?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m willing to say that Iran has an interest in the future Afghanistan, just as we are. And beyond that, I’ve got no particular comment at this time.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from the meeting of the BRIC countries to support a condemnation in the UN for unilateral sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I think a Senior Administration Official mentioned that during a conference call earlier today. This is an issue that has – that does periodically come up within the UN General Assembly. We just believe that our approach, which involves both sanctions under Resolution 1929 plus specific steps that individual countries or entities such as the EU take, both is the best way to proceed and, in fact, is having, we think, the kind of effect that we want to see and establish. It gives us some leverage in terms of encouraging Iran to come back to the negotiating table. So we believe this – our strategy is the right one and it’s beginning to bear fruit. That is our view.

QUESTION: On the Salva Kiir meeting, I’m wondering if the Secretary went over again the carrots and sticks that have been brought forward (inaudible) and what their communication was about how the U.S. is going to keep the pressure on Khartoum to uphold the CPA. Did Salva Kiir ask for any special assurances (inaudible)? What was the discussion (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: He’s grateful for the United States support for the process, both recently and going back to the negotiation of the CPA with the leadership of John Danforth that produced the ceasefire and has brought us to this point. He definitely made clear that it has been international support and direct involvement that has been pivotal in the past in moving the parties to meet their commitments. And he certainly endorsed having the UN – the United States play – continue to play a very active role in this process. And the Secretary, Scott Gration, Johnnie Carson, Princeton Lyman, all agreed that we are committed to this.

QUESTION: Did he express or did the Secretary (inaudible) express the idea that the sanctions and – or the carrots and sticks were sufficient? Did that come up? And secondly, (inaudible) comes out of the question of the date. There’s been some suggestion that it might slip a bit (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: We are focused on the existing timeline. And he acknowledged, as we did, that while there has actually been progress, there’s still a lot to be done.

QUESTION: What do you really expect to come out of Friday’s meeting? I mean, can you just tell us a little bit about what we should be looking for on Friday?

MR. CROWLEY: I think the value of the meeting this week, among others, is to encourage the North and South to work constructively together. They have had interaction, but it is – it needs to be more sustained. And so I think that the meetings that we are having with both representatives from Khartoum and Juba this week set the stage for the high-level meeting, and the high-level meeting can set the stage for more intensified work with the parties working directly and supported by the United States and others. So to the extent that First Vice President Kiir welcomed the involvement of the United States and welcomed support from the international community, he came with a clear message that it will be the direct participation and engagement and, when needed, pressure by the United States and the international community that’s going to make the difference in moving the parties to resolve remaining issues and set the stage for a credible referendum in January and then to be able to support whatever the judgment is through that – through those referenda.


QUESTION: Has there been any diplomatic activity in New York that the U.S. has been involved in regarding the China-Japan dispute over the islands?

MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Thank you.



PRN: 2010/1329

Back to Top

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.